glass notes
Torture on a Saturday Night (Tomorrow)

In the Penal Colony

This one snuck up on me. In the town where I live, a performance of Glass' one act 80 minute chamber opera "In the Penal Colony" based on Kafka, will be performed at St. Ann's Church on Montague Street by the String Orchestra of Brooklyn in collaboration with American Opera Projects. The singers are Jason Papowitz, tenor and Matt Boehler, bass.  Eli Spindel will conduct.

For those of you who don't know the piece (there's not *yet* a commercially available recording) it's a good one.  Right around 1999-2000 Glass was apparently into writing quartets (Dracula) and quintets (Penal Colony) for strings. Saturday nights performance will stray from the Glass original in that it will be played by a string orchestra rather than quintet. I'm looking forward to hearing what it sounds like.  

Glass once told me that he writes these theater works as "pocket operas" that you can literally take out of a suitcase and do in someone's living room.  This performance won't be in a proscenium stage but rather in front of an altar (I'm presuming).  The recent Music Theatre of Wales performances took place in black box type spaces.  Though this production is small, it is nonetheless directed by Sam Helfrich who already has one Glass opera success under his belt: the  very successful Glimmerglass Opera production of Orphée which later went to Portland Opera where it was recorded by Orange Mountain Music. Orphée is soon to go to Virginia Opera this winter.

Other than the string quintet, there are two singers in "Penal Colony," playing the Visitor and Officer. If you don't know the story I won't ruin it for you other than saying that in typical Kafka style, one of these characters doesn't make it to the end of the opera – and he doesn't die by the hand of the other neither does he commit suicide.

I don't know anyone other than perhaps Philip Glass who has attended all of his operas.  I'd like to hear from readers. Personally, I've only covered about a third of Glass' output for the opera house.  My tally of Glass operas that I've actually attended includes:

La Belle et la Bete, Einstein on the Beach (in concert, but I'll see it staged next year), In the Penal Colony (tomorrow night), The Juniper Tree, Kepler, The Sound of a Voice (and Hotel of Dreams), Galileo, and Satyagraha.


2 thoughts on “Torture on a Saturday Night (Tomorrow)”

  1. My tally includes: In the Penal Colony; Waiting for the Barbarians; The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four, and Five; The Fall of the House of Usher; 1000 Airplanes on the Roof; The Mysteries and What’s So Funny?; LaBelle et La Bete; and Akhnaten

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