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.