In the Penal Colony
A Chamber Opera by Philip Glass
Libretto written by Rudolph Wurlitzer based on the tale by Franz Kafka.


Orange Mountain Music OMM0078


A condemned man is about to be executed. His executioner is an Officer who regards the old way of doing things as the correct way, the only way. The new Commander of the penal colony has requested that the execution be witnessed by a Visitor.

The Officer describes the execution machine to the Visitor, detailing its conception, its construction and finally its method. The method of execution is the most horrific and inhumane imaginable. The Officer�s zealous dedication to this method is based on his belief that the machine has the power to bring about a moment of transfiguration in the victim, the moment they understand the crime they have committed and see the error of their ways. As he awaits his execution, the Condemned Man knows nothing of either his conviction or his punishment.

The Visitor is increasingly appalled by what he sees, but seems incapable of intervening. When the Officer realises that his beliefs will no longer be accepted, there is only one course left.

The real horror of the machine is now revealed.


Visitor -Michael Bennett
Officer – Omar Ebrahim
Conductor – Michael Rafferty

The Music Theatre Wales Ensemble:
Violin 1 – Miranda Fulleylove
Violin 2 – Philippa Mo
Viola – Gustav Clarkson
Cello – Chris Allan
Double Bass – Kenneth Knussen
Creative team for the UK premiere production
Conductor – Michael Rafferty
Director – Michael McCarthy
Designer – Simon Banham
Lighting Designer – Ace McCarron
Sound designers – Sound Intermedia

Music Theatre Wales biography
Music Theatre Wales is Britain’s most established and acclaimed touring contemporary opera company, working in Wales, England and internationally. We are dedicated to performing the finest contemporary chamber opera’s acknowledged masterpieces of the recent past and works which we have commissioned from the very best composers and writers. Touring lies at the heart of our existence, enabling audiences in many different venues to experience new work of the highest possible quality.

Since 1988 MTW has created almost 30 productions and presented 14 world premieres. We have an established programme to help nurture new opera composers and we have created productions with a wide range of partners including Opera National du Rhin in Strasbourg, the Berlin Festival, Opera Vest in Norway, Banff Centre in Canada, Theatr Brycheiniog in Brecon, Haarlem Theatre in The Netherlands, Treffpunkt in Stuttgart, and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. MTW has been recorded on CD, broadcast on BBC radio, and one production has been re-created and screened on BBC2. The company has twice been short-listed for the Prudential Awards for “creativity, excellence, innovation and accessibility.” The opera Gwyneth and the Green Knight by Lynne Plowman, produced by MTW in 2002 and later as a co-production with ROH was the first opera to win the British Composers Award and Lynne Plowman’s second opera commissioned by MTW The House of the Gods was also shortlisted for this award in 2007.

Renewal of a friendship
Back in 1989, in only the company�s second year of existence, Music Theatre Wales gave the first performance outside the USA of Philip Glass�s darkly chilling chamber opera, The Fall of the House of Usher. This was the production that placed the company firmly on the map as true innovators in opera.

“The most striking small scale production to be seen anywhere in Britain during the past year”, hailed The Times, while the Daily Telegraph described it as “gripping” and the Guardian as “utterly absorbing.”

The production also marked the start of a long-term relationship between the company and the composer. Now, 21 years later, we are thrilled to renew our friendship with Philip and once again bring one of his operas to the UK for the first time.


Company and Board:
Joint Artistic Directors: Michael McCarthy / Michael Rafferty
Executive Director: Carole Strachan
Artistic Administrator and Company Manager: Catriona Chatterley/Rebecca Shipley (maternity cover)
Patron: Sir Peter Maxwell Davies
Board: Geraint Davies (Chair), Susanne Bradley, Elan Closs Stephens, Andy Eagle, Geraint Lewis, Fiona Morris, Kathryn Morris, Richard Steinitz, Nicola Heywood Thomas

Funding credits:
Music Theatre Wales is a revenue client of The Arts Council of Wales and receives touring funding from Arts Council England
Music Theatre Wales is grateful for support from the following towards the production and tour of In the Penal Colony:
The Boltini Trust
Christine and Philip Carne
The Foyle Foundation
Contact details
Music Theatre Wales
Pascoe House
54 Bute Street
Cardiff CF10 5AF
029 2049 8471

For Orange Mountain Music:
Richard Guerin
Produced by Don Christensen
Executive Producers: Philip Glass, Kurt Munkacsi, and Don Christensen



In the Penal Colony