In the Penal Colony

By Philip Glass

May 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, & 22, 2016

Philip Glass’s harrowing adaptation of Franz Kafka’s short story of the same title returns to Chicago for the first time since the work’s premiere at the Court Theatre in 2000.

With two singers, two actors and a string quintet, Glass’s pocket opera is small in scale and vast in impact. In an unnamed country, a soldier is to be put to death by capital punishment: a machine will tattoo the offender’s crimes on his skin, thus bleeding him to death. When a suspicious human rights inspectors arrives to witness the punishment, the officer in command must convince him of the humanity of the procedure, but with brutal consequences.

Glass’s examination of capital punishment, morality and the darkness of the human spirit is amplified by his iconic score, full of the rhythms and harmonic complexities found in his other works such as Einstein on the Beach and the Qatsi trilogy.

This production is produced in partnership with the Lillstreet Art Center and is performed in the Center’s Painting Studio, continuing Chicago Fringe Opera’s successful run of opera productions in immersive and non-traditional venues.

PDF Program


Franz Kafka’s In the Penal Colony

Read the Story


Matthan Ring Black

The Officer

Matthan Ring Black

Matthan Ring Black, baritone, holds a Master’s Degree in Opera Performance from Wichita State University and a Professional Diploma from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University where he spent two years as a Young Artist with Chicago Opera Theater. Matthan has recently performed the roles of Don Alvaro and Dandini in Rossini’s Il Viaggio a Reims and La Cenerentola, Huy/The Doctor in the Chicago premiere of Daron Hagen’s Amelia at CCPA and Roderick Usher in a new realization of Debussy’s unfinished La Chute de Maison de Usher.

Matthan is also committed to classical vocal music in recital and concert. He recently performed in song recitals honoring the 50th anniversary of the death of Francis Poulenc and selections from La Traviata and A Midsummer Night’s Dream to celebrate the birthdays of Verdi and Britten. Matthan is also passionate about the preservation of art song in English through nontraditional performances of songs from composers such as John Adams, Ernst Bacon, Leonard Bernstein, Jake Heggie, and Lee Hoiby.

Matthan recently made his main stage debut with Chicago Opera Theatre as Vagabond #2 in Carl Orff’s Die Kluge and will be featured as an Apprentice Artist with Opera Southwest this October. Matthan will be also performing the role of Tarquinius in Candid Concert Opera’s The Rape of Lucretia in November. Other performances include Papageno (Die Zauberflöte), Sid (Albert Herring), Guglielmo (Cosi fan tutte), L’horloge Comtoise (L’enfant et les sortileges), Henry Davis (Street Scene), and The Lord High Chancellor (Iolanthe).

Productions with Chicago Fringe Opera

Lucrezia Chucho 2017
In the Penal Colony The Officer 2016
Fringe’s Holiday House Party Soloist 2015
Chicago Fringe Opera’s Lakeside Soiree Soloist 2015
2014 Christmas Celebration Soloist 2014
The Rape of Lucretia Tarquinius 2014

Eric Staves

The Soldier

Eric Staves

Eric Staves is honored to be working with Chicago Fringe Opera for the first time. Chicago credits include: Posh (Steep Theatre Co.), Love and Human Remains (Cor Theatre), Heat Wave (Cold Basement Dramatics), Half Price Cosmos (Bread and Roses). Televison: Empire (Fox). Film: The View From Tall (Official 2016 LA Film Festival Selection) and Goat (Paramount). You can also catch Eric on the popular Web Series, P.O.P.S. on YouTube. Eric is represented by Gray Talent Group.

Productions with Chicago Fringe Opera

In the Penal Colony Prisoner 2016

Zachary Vanderburg

The Visitor

Zachary Vanderburg

Tenor Zachary Vanderburg has been heralded as singing “with vocal luster, dramatic fire, and lyrical sympathy” – Augsburger Allgemeine. Performances this season include Dvorak’s Stabat Mater in festivals in southern France and northern Germany; Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2 Lobgesang at the Masterworks Festival; Bach’s Quodlibet, Cantata 147, and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy as an artist-in-residence at the Baroque on Beaver Island Music Festival; appearances with Music of the Baroque, of which he is a member and teaching artist, under the direction of Jane Glover and Nicholas Kraemer; his role debut of The Visitor in Philip Glass’ In the Penal Colony with Chicago Fringe Opera; and guest recitals at Roosevelt University, Ball State University, Chicago’s City Winery, PianoForte Foundation and The Musical Offering.

Recently, Zachary made his Orchestra Hall debut as the tenor soloist in the North American premiere of Jacob TV’s Mountaintop with the Chicago Sinfonietta, a performance he revisited in February. Comfortable in opera repertoire as well as concert and recital, past seasons have seen Zachary’s role debuts of Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Bohème and Leander in Nielsen’s Maskarade; a concert featuring Britten’s Serenade for Tenor and Horn at the Baroque on Beaver Island Music Festival; a performance in the 10th annual PianoForte Foundation Schubertiade; performances with the Chicago Opera Theater in Verdi’s Giovanna d’Arco and Bloch’s MacBeth; European tours of Bruckner’s Te Deum, Haydn’s Die Schöpfung, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, and Mozart’s Coronation Mass headlining the Eutiner Festspiele, Festival Durance Luberon, Hamburg’s St. Michael’s Church, as well as other venues in Germany, France and Luxembourg; and appearances as a backup singer in Chicago with The Rolling Stones on their 50 & Counting tour. Zachary has been recorded for broadcast by the Bavarian Public Radio (Bayerischer Rundfunk), WFMT in Chicago, and Blue Lake Public Radio in Michigan. He is a founding member of Fourth Coast Ensemble, Chicago’s premiere classical vocal quartet. Zachary has a masters from the Chicago College of Performing Arts and is currently pursuing a fellowship in vocal chamber music at the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago. He is a student of American tenors Allan Glassman and Nicholas Phan.

Productions with Chicago Fringe Opera

In the Penal Colony The Visitor 2016

George Cederquist


George Cederquist

George has directed new productions and opera scenes with Chicago Fringe Opera (where he is the Artistic Director), Pittsburgh Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Main Street Opera, Chicago Summer Opera, North Park University, Roosevelt University, and the Bay View Music Festival.

In September 2015, George launched ‘Opera Box Score’, America’s only weekly talk radio show about opera, broadcast live on WNUR Chicago.

One of ten Americans to receive the 2011-12 German Chancellor Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, George served as a Regieassistent at the Staatstheater Darmstadt during his fellowship in Germany.

George’s training includes an MFA in Directing from Northwestern University, a BA in Theatre Studies and English from Yale University, and a Directing Fellowship at Wolf Trap Opera, as well as participating in the Resident Artist Program at Pittsburgh Opera and in the Merola Opera Program.

Productions with Chicago Fringe Opera

The Great God Pan Director 2018
Lucrezia Director 2017
In the Penal Colony Director 2016
The Turn of the Screw Director 2015
Voices in the Dark, Jazz & Trouble in Tahiti Director 2015
The Rape of Lucretia Director 2014

Catherine O'Shaughnessy


Catherine O'Shaughnessy

A resident of Chicago, Illinois, Catherine O’Shaughnessy is an active orchestra and opera conductor both in the United States and abroad. In 2010, she made her international professional conducting debut as music director of the Mittelsächsisches Theater’s production of Pyramus und Thisbe in Freiberg, Germany; she has also conducted the Moscow Philharmonic and the Rousse Philharmonic (Rousse, Bulgaria) in concert. Avidly committed to Chicago’s dynamic opera scene, she founded Windy City Opera and conducted its first production (La bohème) in 2015. Additionally, she just completed her first collaboration with The Floating Opera Company and 42nd Parallel as conductor and music director for Don Giovanni. Catherine, a student of William Reber at Arizona State University, holds a B.M. from the University of Michigan and a M.M. from Bowling Green State University. In addition to her musical pursuits, Catherine is passionate about the role of the arts in philosophy and society. She currently serves as co-organizer for two philosophy meet-up groups and presented a paper on the philosophy of passion at the 2013 Humanities Conference at Lincoln University, PA.

Productions with Chicago Fringe Opera

The Great God Pan Conductor 2018
Lucrezia Conductor 2017
In the Penal Colony Conductor 2016

Critical Acclaim

Black excelled in the focal role of the Officer...(his) smooth, robust baritone...came with excellent diction...Vanderburg (the visitor) made us aware of his character's increasing revulsion as the Officer's plan for the execution of the Condemned Man became horrifically clear.

Chicago Tribune | Read the Review

Performed in a tiny gallery at the Lill Street Art Center in Ravenswood, Friday night’s performance was a knockout, with sensational performances by the two principals, impressive musical values, and ingenious direction that made a virtue out of the tight space.

Chicago Classical Review | Read the Review