In The Penal Colony


Conducted by Nicholas Fox
Directed by Jerry Mouawad

A piercing and profound view of justice and change.

A visitor is invited to a penal colony to observe the execution of a condemned man at the hands of a nightmarish machine. The colony’s officer extols the virtues of the apparatus, which tortures as it kills, in this piece that the New York Times calls a “Surreal Exploration of Injustice.” As the future of the institution is questioned, the visitor considers the consequences of meddling, and the officer grows more desperate to preserve the system.

About our production:

Sung in English with English captions. 
Approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes, with no intermission.
Performed in The Gregory K. and Mary Chomenko Hinckley Studio Theatre
at the Hampton Opera Center, 211 SE Caruthers St.  

Featuring a string quintet, this new production is directed and devised by Jerry Mouawad of Imago Theatre, who directed Portland Opera’s 2017 production of The Difficulty of Crossing a Field and The Little Match Girl Passion. Tenor Martin Bakari and baritone Ryan Thorn both return to Portland Opera as the Visitor and Officer.


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Join us one hour before curtain for a discussion providing context and unique insights into the world of the opera. After the performance join Christopher Mattaliano, Portland Opera’s general director, along with cast members or collaborators, for a post-show conversation.

Tickets are $75. 


The performance of In the Penal Colony on July 28, 2019 at 2 PM will include an audio description of the visual and physical events on stage for patrons who are blind or have low vision. For patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing, each performance is visually translated with English text projected above the stage. If you require wheelchair, ADA, or companion seating, please let our Patron Services team know when you purchase tickets, so that we can ensure your visit to the opera is an excellent one.


The Visitor
Martin Bakari

The Officer
Ryan Thorn

Nicholas Fox

Jerry Mouawad

Plot & Program Notes

In the Penal Colony is based on Franz Kafka’s short story by the same name. Libretist Rudy Wurlitzer adapted the piece for opera, and ACT Theatre in Seattle commissioned the work, which premiered in 2000.  Kafka’s short story has been adapted in numerous ways, including plays and short films.