A short story
by Franz Kafka
that has recently been adapted into an opera
by Philip Glass
. I had the dubious honor
of viewing one of its world premiere
performances in Chicago
The Philip Glass score was a disappointment to the extent that I did not feel his music has progressed beyond the work he did in Einstein on the Beach and Satyagraha in the 1970s. The vocal parts in particular were nothing exciting.
But perhaps the problem I had is that I am used to listening to Glass in a less distracting setting. I consider Glass a minimalist, and probably the best way to listen to his work is in a comfortable chair with your eyes closed while you're thinking about something else.
Glass and his director, Joanne Akalaitis made a hash of the Kafka short story. First offense: they decided that Kafka needed to be a part of the story. My first response to this decision was positive. In particular it was interesting to consider the relationship between the author and his characters. But as time wore on, it became clear that Kafka was never going to be more than a distraction from the story that was being told. Some things that the Kafka character interrupted the story to do: scrub the floor, dip his head in the bucket and fling it back, eat a drawing made of the machine, lay on his bed and stare at the ceiling while talking out loud, undress the officer before he got into the machine. After a while, it became clear that he was merely a distraction from the story that he supposedly so lovingly wrote.
Second offense: the ending. They decided to have the traveler leave the stage with his suitcase (Kafka hands it to him!) at the end, with the words, "I'm going to miss my boat." (?!) In the short story, he has to fight the prisoner and soldier off in order to get on the boat. This significantly changes the meaning of the story in some ways. What is the penal colony supposed to be if in the end some people like living there?
So overall a negative review. Which is sad, since up until now Philip Glass has been one of my heroes. But this was really overly pretentious trash. Not true to the spirit of Kafka's work at all.