PHILIP GLASS (b.1937): In The Penal Colony.
Catalogue Number: 02N074
Label: Orange Mountain Music
Description: Based on a short story by Kafka, In the Penal Colony explores themes of mindless cruelty carried out by rote, in adherence to unquestioned tradition and regardless of the horrifying brutality of that tradition. The events are viewed through the eyes of a visitor to the penal colony, who becomes increasingly horrified by the inhumane method of execution to which prisoners are subjected, but is powerless to intervene directly. When the officer in charge of executions realizes that he is alone in his belief in the transformative power of the unspeakable mechanism of which he is a part, he applies it to himself, finally revealing it to be nothing but a murderous relic, with no redeeming character at all. Glass' score, with its economical string quintet forces, is very reminiscent of the brooding oppressiveness of the Mishima soundtrack - also a story of highly stylized violence derived from inflexible tradition - all oscillating minor thirds, arpeggiated figuration and slithery bass lines, here accompanying the composer's familiar vocal lines, increasingly refined since his earliest operatic stage works from Satyagraha onward. Libretto included. Michael Bennett (tenor), Omar Ebrahim (baritone), Music Theatre Wales; Michael Rafferty.