One man's struggle with humanity and morality in the face of capital punishment.

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.


Artistic Team



"At a time when the big-league opera heard in Chicago generally adheres to the motto of "safety first," you have to admire the take-no-prisoners bravado of this plucky storefront ensemble."

Chicago Tribune

"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


Supported by The MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, The CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, & the Illinois Arts Council Agency. Chicago Fringe Opera is an Opera America Partner.