Kafka is one of the seminal minds of modernists writing and has proven to be a steadily appealing author for modern audiences.
In the Penal Colony is based on Kafka's short story of the same title. The story describes an execution planned for one of the prisoners of the "colony" for which and up until then, an execution machine has been routinely used.
The material itself is allegorical, and though at first the story appears to address the question of capital punishment, in fact Kafka uses it as a platform to explore, extensively and poetically, issues of humanism, idealism, and transfiguration.
The two protagonists, the commander of the colony and the visitor, are written for a baritone and a tenor or bass and tenor respectively. In addition, there are 2 speaking roles, a prisoner and a guard. A string ensemble accompanies the performers.