An Opera by Philip Glass
Libretto by Rudolph Wurlitzer
Based on the Story by Franz Kafka
Sung in English

Nowhere else but in Philip Glass’s chilling and darkly comic two-character opera can audiences explore the breakdown of civil society in 90 minutes. Adapted from Franz Kafka’s dystopian short story, In the Penal Colony is a pitch-black fable about crime … and a very unusual punishment. Featuring Glass’s signature driving music and his fierce sense of theater, this Season’s Opera Annex will be a uniquely intimate and innovative production that will leave an indelible mark.

WED Nov 11, 2015
THU Nov 12, 2015
SAT Nov 14, 20157:30pm
SUN Nov 15, 20153:00pm

The Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts
Performed in one act. Performance running time approximately 90 minutes.

Creative Team

Conductor Ryan Turner
Stage Director R. B. Schlather
Set Designer Julia Noulin-Mérat
Costume Designer Terese Wadden
Lighting Designer JAX Messenger
Wig And Makeup Designer Jason Allen
Surtitle Designers John Conklin & Allison Voth


David McFerrin as Officer
Neal Ferreira as Visitor
Yury Yanowsky as Man


BLO Chamber Ensemble

Violin I Annie Rabbat Acting Concertmaster
Violin II Colin Davis Acting Principal
Viola Ken Stalberg Principal
Cello Loewi Lin Principal
Bass Robert Lynam Principal


A Visitor arrives, on the invitation of the new Commander, at a remote penal colony, to witness the execution of a prisoner. The Officer in charge describes a machine, invented by the former Commander. It slowly carves a description of his crime into the flesh of the condemned, who has heretofore not been informed of the exact nature of his transgression, and, after hours of torture, kills him.

Devoted to the memory and ideals of the old Commander, the Officer is obsessed with the machine and what he calls the transfiguring moment of redemption that is given to the victim as he gradually comes to understand the nature of his crime. The Visitor is appalled by this description but feels he has no right to interfere. The Officer deplores the fact that the machine has not been properly maintained due to the negative attitude of the new Commander. But when he realizes that the Visitor will not support him in his report, he frees the prisoner and climbs into the machine himself, which begins to horribly malfunction and break apart.

The Visitor looks at the mutilated face of the dead Officer: “He never found what he sought and what all the others found…no sign of redemption…none at all.”



David McFerrin is a BLO Jane & Steven Akin Emerging Artist alumnus who has appeared in numerous Company productions, including Opera Annex productions The Love Potion, Lizzie Borden, and Clemency, and at the Shubert Theatre in Madama Butterfly, Kátya Kabanová and Agrippina. His other opera credits include Santa Fe Opera, Seattle Opera, Florida Grand Opera, and the Rossini Festival in Wildbad, Germany. As a concert soloist, Mr. McFerrin has sung with Gustavo Dudamel and the Israel Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, with the early music ensemble TENET at the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico, and with the Boston Pops. This season he debuts with the Vermont Symphony and is a featured soloist with the Handel and Haydn Society during its bicentennial season. Later this Season, he will appear with BLO as Johann in Massenet’s Werther and as Cascada in Lehár’s The Merry Widow.


Neal Ferreira is a BLO Jane & Steven Akin Emerging Artist alumnus. His most recent appearance with BLO was as Monostatos in the 2013/14 Season-opening production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Other BLO productions include Clemency, The Inspector, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Tosca, Ariadne auf Naxos, Idomeneo, and The Tales of Hoffman. He works regularly with the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, singing in their productions of Rigoletto, Tosca, Un Ballo in Maschera, and the upcoming Otello. Recent highlights include Syracuse Opera, Virginia Opera, Opera Colorado, Anchorage Opera and Ferdinand in the world premiere of Joseph Summer’s The Tempest with The Shakespeare Concerts. He has also performed as an oratorio soloist throughout New England. Mr. Ferreira will return to BLO in the spring as Pritschtisch in the new production of Lehár’s The Merry Widow.


Former Boston Ballet principal dancer Yury Yanowsky makes his BLO debut with In the Penal Colony. Mr. Yanowsky retired last spring after 22 years as soloist, principal and principal guest artist at Boston Ballet, where he danced many of the most iconic leading male roles in the canon. He has been a guest artist at companies around the globe and worked with the world’s leading choreographers. Since retiring, he has concentrated on a full-time choreography career. He has been on the faculty at Centro Choreografico de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s annual summer program for the past 14 years, as well as teaching, coaching, and choreographing for Boston Ballet School and Boston Ballet 2.



Ryan Turner was appointed Artistic Director of Emmanuel Music in 2010. During his tenure he has conducted more than 150 Bach cantatas, B Minor Mass, St. John Passion, and Christmas Oratorio. In addition, he has led major works by Handel, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Stravinksy, and Harbison. Opera highlights include Rake’s Progress, La Clemenza di Tito, Abduction from the Seraglio, Candide and Harbison’s The Great Gatsby. Mr. Turner teaches voice and early music at the Longy School of Music of Bard College. He was the Director of Choral Activities at Phillips Exeter Academy from 2006 to 2012. He lives north of Boston with his wife, soprano Susan Consoli, and their two children, Aidan and Caroline.

R. B. SCHLATHER Stage Director

Rising American opera director R. B. Schlather returns to BLO as Stage Director, having assisted directors David Schweizer on The Love Potion and Christopher Alden on Lizzie Borden. A BLO Jane & Steven Akin Emerging Artist alumnus, his recent directing credits include Norma at the Gran Teatre del Liceu and Orlando and Alcina as open process art exhibitions in New York City, called by The New York Times “a gift given to the New York cultural scene.” In the 2015/16 season, Mr. Schlather returns to his alma mater, Ithaca College, to direct Semele for the Dillingham Center for Performing Arts, directs The Little Match Girl Passion with Illumin Arts as an installation at the Perez Art Museum, Miami, and prepares for an exhibition of Ariodante in New York City. He has had professional affiliations with the New York City Opera, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Canadian Opera Company, Chicago Opera Theater, Bard SummerScape, Tanglewood Music Festival, Glimmerglass Opera, Portland Opera, Gotham Chamber Opera, Ash Lawn Opera, and (le) Poisson Rouge. His work has been presented by CATCH! and Prelude, and published in Emergency INDEX 2011.


In addition to her work as Associate Producer for BLO, Julia Noulin-Mérat is Director of Design and Production for Guerilla Opera and resident set designer for Attic Theater in New York. She has designed more than 300 opera, theatre and television productions, including: Clemency and La Traviata at Boston Lyric Opera; Bluebeard’s Castle at Opera Omaha; Madama Butterfly at Opera New Jersey and El Paso Opera; Lucia di Lammermoor and Così Fan Tutte at Commonwealth Opera; Giver of Light, Loose Wet Perforated, Heart of a Dog, Say It Ain’t So, Joe, Gallo, Troubled Water, Pedr Solis and No Exit at Guerilla Opera; The Barber of Seville at Opera Institute; L’Heure Espagnole and Scalia/Ginsburg at Castleton Festival; Rake’s Progress and Transformations at Boston Conservatory; Little Red Riding Hood and The Telephone at Opera Boston; The Barber of Seville at LoftOpera; and La Descente d’Orphée aux Enfers at Gotham Chamber Opera. Last season, Ms. Noulin-Mérat earned ArtsImpulse’s Theatre Award Best Boston Set Design for her production of The Rape of Lucretia and Best Opera for Gallo.

JAX MESSENGER Lighting Designer

JAX Messenger’s successful career as a lighting professional includes lighting productions such as Oresteia and The Wreckers at Bard SummerScape; R. B. Schlather’s exhibitions of Alcina and Orlando; Princess Butterfly at Wanda Culture Industry Group; Requiem and The Elixir of Love for Families at San Francisco Opera; The Barber of Seville at the Merola Opera Program; Laurencia, Walpurgisnacht and Majisimas at Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo; and Sleeping Beauty, Fluctuating Hemlines, WAM2, Shostokovich Concerto, WAM!, and Don Quixote at The Washington Ballet. As an assistant lighting director, he managed the creation of four operas for New York City Opera and 48 operas for San Francisco Opera. As a lighting supervisor, he has produced tours for The Washington Ballet and Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo in hundreds of venues around the world including the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Théâtre du Chatelet in Paris, Teatro degli Arcimboldi in Milan and Australia’s Arts Centre Melbourne.

TERESE WADDEN Costume Designer

Terese Wadden made her BLO debut in 2013 with the Company’s Opera Annex production, Lizzie Borden. She recently designed Pyramus and Thisbe at the Canadian Opera Company, Oklahoma at Bard Summerscape, Orlando at White Box Art Center, Arthur Miller’s The Price at Mark Taper Forum, and Kat’a Kabanova at Spoleto Festival USA. She has designed costumes for As You Like It at The Acting Company, A Florentine Tragedy and Gianni Schicchi at the Canadian Opera Company, Così Fan Tutte at New York City Opera, Don Giovanni at New York City Opera and Portland Opera, La Clemenza di Tito at the Canadian Opera Company and Chicago Opera Theatre, and Elliot Carter’s only opera, What Next?, at the Miller Theatre. She has also collaborated with the architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro on the exhibit How Wine Became Modern at the San Francisco MoMA. Ms. Wadden is a graduate of the Motley Theatre Design Course in London and Vassar College.

JASON ALLEN Wigs and Makeup

Designer Jason Allen has been BLO’s Resident Wig and Makeup Designer since 2003. A fixture of the Boston performing arts community, he also works with Huntington Theatre Company, Boston Ballet and many other organizations in Boston and throughout the country.

BLO Chamber Ensemble

Violin I Annie Rabbat Acting Concertmaster
Violin II Colin Davis Acting Principal
Viola Ken Stalberg Principal
Cello Loewi Lin Principal
Bass Robert Lynam Principal



In The Wings
Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera
Keep checking back for updated articles, in-depth content, and more!

Looking Back on In the Penal Colony: Feedback and Reviews

As we approach the holiday season, let’s take a moment to look back on our seventh Opera Annex production, In the Penal Colony by Philip Glass. Staged in the historic Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts, this unique, dark, and unsettling production left an indelible mark on critics, students, and audience members alike.…more »

In the Penal Colony: A Sneak Peek!

Check out this special SNEAK PEEK from Monday evening’s Dress Rehearsal for In the Penal Colony! This Season’s Opera Annex production, staged in the Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts, is pitch-black fable about crime … and a very unusual punishment.…more »

The “Real” Devil’s Island

In his short story “In the Penal Colony,” it is often accepted that Kafka was referencing (in his usual slightly oblique and ambiguous manner) the actual French penal settlements (usually referred to in the singular as Devil’s Island) in French Guiana. In the story, a reference is made to the “tropics,” and the Officer and the Traveler (or “Visitor” or “Explorer,” as he is described in various translations) speak in French. But the landscape is described by Kafka as barren, rocky, and desert…more »

Math, Magic, and Music: An Interview with Carl Rosenberg, Acoustician

We sat down recently with Carl Rosenberg, an acoustician with Acentech, Inc. who consults with BLO on Opera Annex productions, including the upcoming In the Penal Colony at the Cyclorama at Boston Center for the Arts. A fascinating mix of math, music, and magic, read on for his insights about what makes a site-specific work sound glorious!…more »

Living Legend: Philip Glass Visits the MFA

On Wednesday, October 21, Boston Lyric Opera was honored to join the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Shapiro Celebrity Lecture Series in welcoming living legend Philip Glass to the Shapiro Celebrity Lecture Series for an interview and talk, titled Philip Glass: 40 Years of Opera.…more »

“Variety, Curiosity, Exploration:” A Composer in Search of Almost Everything

In my blog article on Philip Glass, I mentioned the multitude of forms, genres, performance styles, and performance forces that he seems to delight in. Here are a few more examples of his range and how he has intriguingly merged virtuosic performances with the essence of his compositional style.…more »

Philip Glass: An Operatic Life

Nefertiti, Walt Disney, Columbus, Martin Luther King, Robert E. Lee, Einstein, Gandhi, Galileo, Stephen Hawking, and so on: What composer has managed to weave such an astonishingly disparate set of figures into his operas? Yet the range merely illustrates the scope, the variety, the endless curiosity and exploration of the protean Philip Glass. His 26 operas (the exact number count varies, as he plays extensively in the borders.…more »

Get to Know In the Penal Colony

Nefertiti, Walt Disney, Columbus, Martin Luther King, Robert E. Lee, Einstein, Gandhi, Galileo, Stephen Hawking, and so on: What composer has managed to weave such an astonishingly disparate set of figures into his operas? Yet the range merely illustrates the scope, the variety, the endless curiosity and exploration of the protean Philip Glass. His 26 operas (the exact number count varies, as he plays extensively in the borders.…more »

Digging Deeper

Recommendations for further reading, watching, and exploring from John Conklin, BLO Artistic Advisor


Words Without Music: A Memoir
By Philip Glass
Liveright Press, 2015

A serious, humorous, fascinating, very engaging meditation by Philip Glass on a wide range of subjects, including how to find one’s musical voice and how to find an audience for that voice while making a living and living a life. “Lively and colorful…by one of the most articulate composers around. Insight and practical common sense pervade his new book.” – The New York Times

“…a self portrait of a composer who rose to prominence almost entirely outside of the usual institutions. The book reads the way his compositions sound at their best…propulsive with a surreptitious, emotional undertow.” – Los Angeles Times


A number of Glass’s operas are on DVD (though unfortunately not the superb Met Opera production of Satyagraha…although it was broadcast in HD). You might check out:


“A wise, major opera…produced with imagination and intensity. Glass, following Kepler’s lead, understands that there may really be a music of the spheres.” – Los Angeles Times

The Perfect American

First performed in Madrid in 2013. Randy Wurlitzer (who worked with Glass on In the Penal Colony) fashioned a operatic transformation of Peter Stephan Jungk’s novel using both fact and fiction to peer into Walt Disney’s troubled psyche as illness forces him to confront his mortality. This proved a powerful, poignant, and sometimes comic and grotesque subject for Glass. The scene between Walt and the animatronic Abraham Lincoln is both deeply funny and disturbing.

Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts
A film by Scott Hicks
Koch Lorber Films

For 18 months, Scott Hicks followed Glass across three continents and was allowed unique access to the composer’s working process and collaborators including Martin Scorsese and Errol Morris. “Fascinating…as haunting as one of Glass’ own works.” – New York Magazine


There is only one CD available of In the Penal Colony, and fortunately it is a fine presentation of this short, bold, and dramatic work. Michael Rafferty leads the forces of the Music Theater Wales—the two vocal soloists are eloquent and the string quintet plays with virtuosity in the alternating passages of driving terror and lyrical meditation.

Sony has released in a “budget” format three of Philip Glass’s seminal operatic works. Sadly, this means no libretto and very minor and inadequate notes, but the music endures. Einstein on the Beach has, for me, perhaps more historical interest than musical content, and is hard to isolate from the Robert Wilson theatrical staging and imagery, but Satyagraha (performed by the New York City Opera with Christopher Keene) and Akhnaten (with the Stuttgart State Opera and Dennis Russell Davis) are two of his most compelling works. The mystical subject matter of both suits his music’s hypnotic, evocative power…and both pieces reach extraordinary heights of intensity and rhapsodic feeling.

The Essential Philip Glass, again on the Sony label, is a comprehensive and compelling three-CD collection of a wide range of compositions (excerpts from opera, chamber music, songs, music for dance, music for film) showing his astonishing versatility in many styles and modes, and drawn from a number of important recordings and interpretations.


Don’t miss this long but very candid, charming, and personal interview with Philip Glass:

An excerpt from the excellent documentary Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts:

Read the full short story “In the Penal Colony” by Kafka here.

Don’t forget! Start at smile.amazon.com and choose “Boston Lyric Opera” to support BLO every time you shop.


“Ferreira and McFerrin are excellent.”WBUR The Artery

“Excellent performances … this newest production will be counted as another in

[BLO’s] column of successes.”Boston Globe

“Captivating … very well presented, very well sung.” – WGBH

“Unforgettable … a true triumph in the company’s history.”South Shore Critic


Cast Photos

All photos below are of Neal Ferrerira, David McFerrin and Stage Director R. B. Schlather. Please credit Eric Antoniou for Boston Lyric Opera © 2015

Opening Night