Advanced Search

Work Information

Poul Ruders : Kafka's Trial

Publisher Wilhelm Hansen
Opera and Music Theatre
Sub-Category Opera
1 Hour, 45 Minutes
Orchestration 4(2pic)(2afl)
Hire  Explain this...

Programme Note

March 12 2005
The Royal Danish Orchestra
Thomas Søndergaard, Conductor
Francisco Negrin, Instructor
Operaen, Copenhagen, Denmark

An Opera in One Act with a Prelude
Music by Poul Ruders
Original English libretto by Paul Bentley,
adapted from Franz Kafka’s original German text
Danish version libretto by Karen Hoffmann

FRANZ KAFKA – 30. Dramatic-lyric tenor
FELICE BAUR – mid 20s. Dramatic-lyric soprano
GW – mid 20s. Pretty Swiss Christian Girl. Silent part
GRETA BLOCH – MID 20s. Dramatic-lyric mezzo
Three ZANIES – aged 20-30: dancer-acrobat-conjurors. 2 male, 1 female. (in office suits , non-singing)
CHORUS(on and off stage):
Kafka´s Father(big, powerful, bull-necked)
Kafka´s Mother and his three sisters
Felice´s Parents and her sister
Relations and friends.
A Rabbi

By Francisco Negrin

In 1912 Franz Kafka met Felice Bauer and started a long distance relationship with her.

In the first part of the opera we witness him writing two years' worth of letters to her and fantasising her possible reactions to them. In the letters, he constantly hovers between idealising her and selfishly hurting her, especially once he starts a parallel correspondence with her best friend Greta Bloch, whom he ended up having a sexual relationship with, around the time of his official engagement to Felice in 1914.

The second part of the piece shows Kafka still corresponding with the two women, but now also imagining The Trial, which is the novel he actually wrote as a consequence of his feelings of guilt. In it, his alter ego K. is seemingly accused of some never revealed crime. He is never actually arrested or punished in any way but while clamouring his innocence, his guilt in fact willingly feeds and arrogantly encourages persecution. In this grotesque paranoid and spiralling nightmare, he encounters an inaccessible, cold woman he ends up assaulting, inspired by the real life Felice, and several overtly sexual temptresses inspired by Greta, who distract him from the path to proving his innocence while supposedly helping him, as well as a myriad of characters and events representing his worst fears, mostly derived from his mind numbingly bureaucratic job.

In the final section of the opera, we witness the real life situation that unfolded when Greta revealed the liaison to Felice. They asked Kafka to meet them in a hotel in Berlin and together accused him of unfaithfulness, hypocrisy, self pity, abusive behaviour and judged him to be the pathetic man he so feared he was outside his life as a writer.


  • As an orchestrator Ruders has no equal today
    Michael Bo, Opera News, 18/05/2005
  • What makes the opera cohere is Ruders' music
    Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 15/03/2005
  • There’s a lot of rhythm and progression in Poul Ruders music
    Eva Hvidt, Kristeligt Dagblad, 15/03/2005
  • ...what makes you care and shakes you up is Mr. Ruders's stunning score
    Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, 14/03/2005
  • Poul Ruders is formidabel as orchestrator tossing off all kinds of grotesque or sinister moods
    Jan Jacoby, Politiken, 14/03/2005
  • It is beautiful and formidable
    Søren Kassebeer, Berlingske Tidende, 14/03/2005
  • The work was a triumph for the composer Poul Ruders
    Ulrik Cold, Børsen, 14/03/2005


Please sign up for our free newsletter with the latest news and works.

* First Name
* Last Name
* E-mail