Der Prozess – The Trial
Austrian premiere / Chamber opera in two acts Libretto by Christopher Hampton based on Franz Kafka’s manuscript “The Trial” / In English with German surtitles
Franz Kafka’s uncompleted manuscript “The Trial” (“Der Prozess”) centres around the oppressive feeling of powerlessness that its protagonist Josef K. feels in the face of the absurdity, injustice and corruption of the court and the people around him. The author wrote it in 1914 and 1915, making steady progress at first but soon suffering from an unbreakable writer’s block that made it impossible for Kafka to complete the novel. “The Trial” has autobiographical elements and reflects a personal crisis in the life of the artist: Kafka experienced the dissolution of his engagement with Felice Bauer as a personal indictment and their final talk, during which Felice was supported by her sister and her friend, seemed to Kafka like a court proceeding in which he was sentenced even though he was innocent and had yet to continue living his life as if nothing had happened.
Reality turns into a nightmare – Kafkaesque literature par excellence. Together with librettist Christopher Hampton, Philip Glass used this thrilling material to create a chamber opera in two acts, which premiered in London in 2014. His music – much less minimalistic than his early works, with longer melodic phrases in its tonal framework, which combine with harsh rhythms to dramatise the plot – serves as a perfect continuation of the emotions and thoughts of the figures, dramatically recounted in the additional dimension of sound.
Philip Glass (*1937) is considered a representative of Minimal Music because of his early works, such as “Einstein on the Beach”; its legendary world premiere in 1976 was staged by director Robert Wilson. Glass himself, however, does not perceive his art as part of that aesthetic, but argues that he has started a new musical movement by combining artistic forms of expression.
Stage and costume designer Thomas Pekny creates oppressive, Kafkaesque spaces for the production, which is directed by Carl Philip von Maldeghem. The Mozarteum Orchestra performs in a chamber music formation under the baton of Principal Conductor Robin Davis. The eight soloists of the opera ensemble play 23 different roles in the course of the evening.