An opera by Philip Glass
Libretto by Rudolph Wurlitzer
Based on the original story by Franz Kafka

A distinguished visitor arrives in an unnamed place to witness an execution. The procedure is expected to be efficient, quiet and anonymous, administered by an elaborate machine. But torture is a messy business, and not everything goes according to plan. At what point does the silence of the visitor become immoral? When does non-intervention become a crime?

With the Australian premiere of In the Penal Colony, Sydney Chamber Opera presents the first Philip Glass opera ever to be performed in Sydney. Glass, the pioneering American minimalist and cult figure who celebrates his 75th birthday this year, set this powerful and confronting short story by Franz Kafka to music in 2000. The highly charged claustrophobia of Glass’s hypnotic repetition resonates powerfully with Kafka’s nightmarish vision of imprisonment and execution. Featuring just two singers, one actor and a string quintet, In the Penal Colony is as intimate and intense as opera gets.

© 2000 Dunvagen Music Publishers Inc. Used by Permission.

Huw Belling

Imara Savage

Set & Costume Design

Michael Hankin

Lighting Design
Verity Hampson

Paul Goodwin-Groen
Pascal Herington
Anthony Hunt

Chamber ensemble



The Parade Playhouse, Parade Theatres
Anzac Pde, Kensington


75 minutes

Press Reviews

Sydney Morning Herald
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“It is a tribute to the Sydney Chamber Opera… that in Philip Glass’s 75th year one of this true innovator’s operas has finally been performed in Sydney”
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“Yet another phenomenal success for the relatively new, edgy and vibrant Sydney Chamber Opera. Long may they flourish…”
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“As gripping as it is haunting”

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We acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation as the traditional custodians of the land on which we work and perform. We honour their elders both past and present, and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.