Der Kaiser von Atlantis
19. September 2020 - 16. October 2020
Faced by the mechanised death on an industrial scale presided over by Emperor Overall of Atlantis, Harlequin and Death – “life that can no longer laugh and death that can no longer cry” – are reduced to observers of a world “which has forgotten how to delight in life and die of death.” When Overall declares a war of everyone against everyone, Death feels that he has been robbed of all dignity and refuses to serve the Emperor any longer…
What value do life and death have in a world in which people have been robbed of their dignity? This is the question around which Viktor Ullmann (1898-1944)’s multi-layered operatic parable ‘The Emperor of Atlantis’ revolves, composed in 1943-44 for a first class ensemble of soloists amid the everyday horrors of the Theresienstadt concentration camp. In this work lasting barely one hour, Viktor Ullmann not only referenced contemporary influences from Schönberg to fashionable dances of the 20s and 30s but also included cryptic musical quotations such as the Bach chorale ‘Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott‘ and the German national anthem. Although work on ‘The Emperor of Atlantis’ was abandoned for unknown reasons shortly before its premiere, the score has survived as telling evidence of passionate artistic resistance against a tyrannical and unjust regime.
Director Ilaria Lanzino, who was recently awarded the European Opera Directing Prize will direct ‘The Emperor of Atlantis’ for the Deutsche Oper am Rhein.
Opera in One Act (1943/44)
Libretto by Peter Kien
Overall, Kaiser von Atlantis
When Death loses its horror, life goes off the rails. What power does a murderous despot have if no one in his empire can die any more? Executions cannot be carried out, soldiers prove unable to kill each other. Soon the entire country is overcome with bitter protests by the living dead against the immortality that has been imposed on them. Death offers to end his strike, if the Emperor agrees to make a sacrifice “as the first to suffer this new death.” Overall says his farewells and follows Death.
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