Kafka’s Insect – Ruben Zahra’s New Multimedia Production

In March, composer Ruben Zahra will be staging Kafka’s Insect, an innovative production that will reinterpret Franz Kafka’s 20th century literary classic The Metamorphosis through music, sound and video-art.

Supported by the Malta Arts Fund, the interdisciplinary performance will present the famous narrative through Zahra’s unique method of accompanying video-art scenes with a live piano score and modular analog synthesizers.

As one of the best-known and most celebrated works penned by Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis follows the psychological struggle of Gregor Samsa, a young salesman who finds himself suddenly transformed into a large insect.

“In this project, the video captures the narrative through the soundscape of the story, such as the prodding of feet as the furniture in Gregor’s room is moved around, a medicinal glass vial shattering on the floor, or rain pelting against the windowpanes,” explains Zahra. “The video becomes an ‘instrument’ whereby the content of the score is derived from the footage itself – thus creating a ‘dialogue’ between the live piano score recital and the soundscape of the projected video.”

Kafka’s Insect is the latest in a series of innovative productions created by Ruben Zahra, who often embraces different art forms and blends genres. His diverse portfolio includes Kirana, a children’s opera that has toured 15 countries over the past three years, and his controversial Teatru Malta production of Min Hi? last year. Meanwhile, his new version of the Satie/Picasso ballet Parade is due to tour Italy and Turkey in 2020.

Zahra’s distinctive style will first bring Kafka’s Insect to life, however, for two nights only on 21 and 22 March at the Valletta Campus Theatre.

To create the titular insect, Zahra will use digital animation inspired by the many illustrations created for the novel over the past century. Zahra also wanted to capture a vintage look for the video-art backdrop of this project. To achieve this aesthetic he used the Daguerreotype Achromat lens which is inspired by the world’s first photographic optic lens, originally created in France in 1838. The illuminous soft focus and rich textured backgrounds captured by this lens enhance the Kafkaesque setting of bizarre anxiety and alienation.

Joining Ruben Zahra in creating this interdisciplinary project are a small crew of film industry professionals. Filmmaker Kenneth Scicluna, cinematographer Matthew Muscat Drago and sound recordist Aleksander Bundalo assisted Zahra in the production of the video scenes, while Adrian Mamo reconstructed Gregor’s room to cinematic detail. The cast features Isabelle Gatt as Mrs Samsa, Silvio Axisa as Mr Samsa, Svetlana Pandolfino as Greta Samsa, Andre Mangion as Gregor Samsa and violinist Agnieszka Kuzma, while the virtuoso piano score will be performed live by Tricia Dawn Williams.

Kafka’s Insect is supported by the Malta Arts Fund and will be performed at the Valletta Campus Theatre (ex-MITP) on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 March at 8pm. Booking is now open online at www.ticketline.com.mt.

Paula Fleri-Soler

Paula has a pedigree in TV and stage production (children's and family entertainment) and a passion for the arts. She's taken the reins on The Artists' Directory - Malta and the relevant content for the site.

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