Photo courtesy Opera Australia

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When Franz Kafka wrote the short story The Metamorphosis (published in 1915), he probably didn’t foresee that it would become a classic of absurdist literature, nor that his name would spawn a category of experience, “Kafkaesque.” The term encompasses the bizarre, the oppressive and the sense of alienation on the cusp of World War I, but its meaning filled a gap in modern experience that is yet to lose currency.

In the tale, Gregor Samsa awakens one morning as a bug (often interpreted as a cockroach). He struggles to grasp his new state, beginning with how to flip over, and slowly reveals his life’s predicaments. Kafka wrote other pieces about his apprehension of his world, much of which comprised of being a German Jew living in Prague in the lead-up to the Great War, and The Metamorphoses is among his best-known.

Opera Australia presents an unexpected interpretation of the story – a chamber opera. The Australian premiere of Australian composer Brian Howard’s English-language chamber opera will take place in unusual surrounds – Opera Australia’s Scenery Workshop at the Opera Centre in Surry Hills. Conductor Paul Fitzsimon and 12 musicians occupying centre stage, with six singers near the audience.

Baritone Simon Lobelson plays Gregor Samsa, the unfortunate young man beleaguered by responsibilities. Other performers include Opera Australia principals Julie Lea Goodwin, Christopher Hillier, Taryn Fiebig, Adrian Tamburini and Benjamin Rasheed.

“Metamorphosis is an incredibly dynamic tale – one that can’t be buried. It is the ultimate in strange, alienating, dreamlike, and horrifying musings in modern life,” says director Tama Matheson.

Sep 26-29. Opera Australia Scenery Workshop, The Opera Centre, 480 Elizabeth St, Surry Hills. $79+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.opera.org.au

By Olga Azar.