Philip Glass gets an opera surprise for his 75th

Philip Glass gets an opera surprise for his 75th


norman lebrecht

January 16, 2012

It has just been announced that Glass’s Kafka opera, In The Penal Colony, will be released next month on CD for his big anniversary.

It’s the Music Theatre Wales production from 2010 and it will appear on the composer’s own Orange Mountain label.

Details below:

CD Release: February 20, 2012 (UK)


Philip Glass – In the Penal Colony

Music Theatre Wales – Michael Rafferty


UPC 801837007824 – OMM0078



Music Theatre Wales’s UK premiere production of Philip Glass’s one-act opera, In the Penal Colony is released on CD on February 20, 2012.


This world premiere recording, conducted by MTW’s Music Director Michael Rafferty, is released on the composer’s own music label, Orange Mountain Music. It marks a further episode in the enterprising Welsh company’s deepening relationship with America’s most celebrated composer.


Philip Glass’ gripping one-act chamber opera, based on a story by Franz Kafka, was composed and premiered in 2000 by A Contemporary Theater in Seattle. The libretto is by Rudolph Wurlitzer.


Music Theatre Wales’s gave the UK Premiere performances of In the Penal Colony in 2010 in a widely admired twelve-date UK tour.


The story…

A condemned man is about to be executed. 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.  When the Officer realizes that his beliefs will no longer be accepted, there is only one course left. The real horror of the machine is now revealed.


Scored for string quintet (drawn from the Music Theatre Wales Ensemble) and two singers, this world premiere recording by Music Theatre Wales is under the direction of Michael Rafferty, with tenor Michael Bennett as the Visitor and baritone Omar Ebrahim as the Officer.

The studio recording was made at the Angel Recording Studios in November 2010.