An Opera by Philip Glass
Adaptation by Christopher Hampton
Based on the novel by Franz Kafka

The meeting of two extraordinary minds - Philip Glass and Franz Kafka.

Both are masters of their craft. Each has his own instantly recognisable style. Together, they are the perfect match.

Kafka's nightmarish tale of a man arrested and prosecuted for an unknown crime by a relentless and inaccessible authority has lost none of its chilling potency down the years. Now, Philip Glass brings his signature music and dramatic force to this literary classic. Working with Christopher Hampton as librettist, this new opera faithfully follows Kafka's original story, relishing the author's notorious paranoia and bizarre sense of humour.

Philip Glass and Music Theatre Wales have developed a striking creative relationship over the years, continuing to produce exciting new work for contemporary opera audiences. Glass has long cherished the idea of turning The Trial into an opera and has chosen Music Theatre Wales as the company to do it. Join us in experiencing this creative partnership's unique reimagining of Kafka's prophetic tale.

Music Theatre Wales

The Trial is a co-commission and co-production between Music Theatre Wales, the Royal Opera, Theater Magdeburg and Scottish Opera

Production credits



Based on the novel

Philip Glass

Christopher Hampton

Franz Kafka

Production Team




Lighting Designs

Michael Rafferty

Michael McCarthy

Simon Banham

Ace McCarron

Sung in English

Opera in two acts with one interval

The performance will last approximately 2 hours 20 minutes

View full cast

Production Stories

Take a look at a selection of insights and stories from The Trial rehearsal room, and experience snippets of the process of bringing this exciting new opera from page to stage.

The Trial is not a nightmare or a fantasy; it is the concrete expression of our absurd metaphysical condition

Zadie Smith

The Story

The Trial begins with the unexpected arrest of Josef K. by two men who appear in his bedroom. It is his 30th birthday, so perhaps this is a joke. But it isn’t, although he is allowed to carry on with his everyday life. The reason for his arrest is not made clear and so K. is forced to defend himself against an unknown charge, attending a Court that takes place in the strangest of locations at unspecified times.

Initially K. resolves to fight the system and prove his innocence, but at every fresh encounter with a bizarre array of characters the possibility of resolution evaporates. Stifled by the helplessness of his situation, K. has no choice left but to accept his fate. Which he does.

Full synopsis

Tour Information

Linbury Studio Theatre

Royal Opera House

10, 11, 14, 15, 17 October | 7.45pm

18 October | 6pm

020 7304 4000

Royal Northern College of Music


Wed 22 October | 7.30pm

0161 907 5555

Theatr y Sherman Theatre


Fri 7 November | 7.30pm

029 2064 6900

Experience more...

Artistic Director, Michael McCarthy will be giving a free pre-show talk at each venue, except in Aberystwyth, where there will be a post-show discussion.

Why The Trial may be for you
The Trial is a new opera by the world’s most popular, successful and recognisable living composer – Philip Glass – and he’s writing it especially for Music Theatre Wales.

It’s been a life-long ambition of Philip Glass to write an opera based on Kafka’s most compelling novel – “one of the half dozen or so most important literary works of C20th” according to Philip. Building on the relationship we’ve had with him since presenting the UK premiere of The Fall of the House of Usher in 1989, Glass offered to write The Trial for us because he likes us, and he trusts us. We simply cannot wait to reveal this extraordinary gift to audiences across the UK and share our delight in the discovery of the new, excite curiosity into how Philip Glass and Christopher Hampton have re-imagined The Trial as an opera, and engage you in the newly wrought journey of Josef K. as an unexpected but completely appropriate operatic figure.

This is not opera as you might imagine it. It is not about “the voice” but it needs great singers who are also true wordsmiths, articulating every word in a play-like manner. Every moment of the drama will be composed, for a chamber ensemble of just 12 musicians, many of whom will be the UK’s leading contemporary musicians who are committed to working with Music Theatre Wales.

The music will rise and fall with the story, following K.’s every thought and feeling, driving his inexorable journey towards finality. The production will take place in a contained and abstracted world, perhaps the world of K.s dreams in which he will be observed and tested, treading a fine line between comedy and paranoia. It will be a musical AND theatrical performance that sets out to be as faithful as possible to Kafka whilst bringing it to life in an utterly different form. The combination of Philip Glass and Franz Kafka has already been proved, and will once again provide the alchemy to make this another memorable and fascinating event.

Full synopsis

Philip Glass

The phrases ‘cult following’ and ‘contemporary classical composer’ rarely appear in the same sentence, but Philip Glass is a case in point.

One of the world’s most popular living composers he is acclaimed for his operas, symphonies, film scores, compositions for his own ensemble, and collaborations with artists ranging from Twyla Tharp to Allen Ginsberg, Woody Allen to David Bowie. He has had an extraordinary and unprecedented impact upon the musical and intellectual life of his times and garnered a wide and hugely loyal fan base along the way.

Born in Baltimore in 1937, Philip Glass discovered music in his father’s radio repair shop. In addition to servicing radios, Ben Glass carried a line of records and, when certain ones sold poorly, he would take them home and play them for his three children, trying to discover why they didn’t appeal to customers. These happened to be recordings of the great chamber works, and the future composer rapidly became familiar with Beethoven quartets, Schubert sonatas, Shostakovich symphonies and other music then considered “offbeat.” It was not until he was in his upper teens that Glass began to encounter more “standard” classics.

The new musical style that Glass was evolving was eventually dubbed “minimalism.” Glass himself never liked the term and preferred to speak of himself as a composer of “music with repetitive structures.” His music is based on the repetition of brief, elegant melodic fragments that weave in and out like an aural tapestry. In his music, the listener is “immersed in a sort of sonic weather that surrounds, twists, turns, develops”.

There is nothing “minimalist” about his output. In the past 25 years alone he has composed over 20 operas, eight symphonies, six concertos, string quartets, film scores, and a growing body of work for solo piano and organ.

Among his best known works are the operas Einstein on the Beach, The Voyage and Satyagraha (the acclaimed ENO production was a sell-out) and the film scores Koyaanisqati, The Thin Blue Line, Notes on a Scandal, The Hours (winner of a BAFTA) and The Truman Show which won a Golden Globe Award.

Christopher Hampton
Christopher Hampton is a British playwright, screen writer, film director and producer.

He is best known for his play based on the novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses and the film version Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and more recently, the screenplay for the film adaptation of Ian McEwan’s Atonement. As well as this he has an extraordinary catalogue of adaptations, libretti, translations, TV and movie scripts, film production and original plays to his name.

Christopher became involved in theatre while studying French and German at Oxford University, and wrote a play in his first year. The Royal Court’s subsequent production was so successful that it transferred to the Comedy Theatre while he was still a student, making him the youngest writer ever to have a play performed in the West End - a record which still stands. He said at the time that he also hoped to become the oldest writer to have a play in the West End, an ambition he has yet to achieve.

His plays, musicals and translations have so far garnered four Tony Awards, three Olivier Awards, four Evening Standard Awards and the New York Theatre Critics’ Circle Award; prizes for his film and television work include an Oscar, two BAFTAs, a Writers’ Guild of America Award, the Prix Italia, a Special Jury Award at the Cannes Film Festival, Hollywood Screenwriter of the Year, and The Collateral Award at the Venice Film Festival for Best Literary Adaptation.

Christopher Hampton and Philip Glass have worked together before: Glass wrote the score for 1996 film adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, written and directed by Hampton, whilst Hampton wrote librettos for Glass’s opera Waiting for the Barbarians (2005), based on the novel by J M Coetzee and for Appomattox, set against the backdrop of the American Civil War (2007), a revised version of which will be presented by the National Opera in Washington D.C. in 2015.


The Trial will be created by MTW’s award-winning design team of Director Michael McCarthy, Conductor Michael Rafferty, Designer Simon Banham and Lighting Designer Ace McCarron, responsible for some of the company’s most acclaimed productions, including In the Penal Colony, Greek, and The Killing Flower.

Michael said at the start of the first model showing: “This is a slightly unusual design process, in that we have had to complete the design before we have read the full libretto and after seeing only a little of the music. However, we are able to embark on the design because of the detailed conversations we’ve been able to have with Philip and Christopher about their approach to the opera and of course - the existence of the book, which the opera will be very largely faithful to.

In fact, Philip originally asked if he could have the designs before he started writing the music, but I said I would rather do it the other way round if possible! In the end we got most of the text before we designed, and Philip got most of the design before he got too far with the composition.”

Josef K

Johnny Herford


Fräulein Bürstner | Leni

Amanda Forbes


Frau Grubach | Washerwoman (Wife of Court Usher)

Rowan Hellier


Titorelli | Flogger | Student (Berthold) | Clerk of Court

Paul Curievici


Guard 1 (Franz) | Block

Michael Bennett


Lawyer Huld | Magistrate | Court Usher

Gwion Thomas


Guard 2 (Willem) | Usher/ Clerk of the Court / Priest

Nicholas Folwell


Inspector | Uncle Albert

Michael Druiett


The Music Theatre Wales experience
We want to share the excitement we feel in discovering new operas that have vibrant dramatic and musical qualities

Opera is all about telling stories in music. It emerges from our innate need and ability to combine story, music and physical performance to share ideas and feelings, and at its best it can change how we feel about ourselves and the world around us. The operas we perform continue with this tradition but also aim to challenge it and transform it by exploring the capacity of the music of today to explore new ideas and tell new stories or re-tell old ones in a new and exciting way.

We want our opera to engage and challenge audiences. We want to stimulate and communicate new ideas, thoughts and feelings, and so we continually re-imagine what opera can do and what it can offer. That way we can keep it a truly dynamic and contemporary art form. That is what we strive to do.

Photo credit: Clive Barda
Photo credit: Clive Barda
In The Penal Colony
Photo credit: Simon Banham
For You
Photo credit: Clive Barda
The Killing Flower
Photo credit: Clive Barda
The Killing Flower
Photo credit: Clive Barda

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