Der Kaiser von Atlantis is a miracle and a mystery. Viktor Ullmann composed the work in 1943, while interred in Terezin, and poet Peter Klein wrote the libretto. We speculate about the instruments Ullmann had at his disposal and assume that there were singers able to perform a demanding score. We know that an S.S. Officer heard a rehearsal, and called it to a halt. Ullmann and his family were never heard from again; somehow the manuscript of the score survived.
The opera is a blatant indictment of the insanity of war and the atrocities of the Nazi regime. It portrays an omnipotent and deranged Kaiser, who could only be unseated by the suspension of the natural order of life and death. But there are also moments of heart-stopping beauty and messages of hope.
Der Kaiser von Atlantis was reconstructed from the surviving source materials by musicologists Henning Brauel and Andreas Krause. It had its premiere at the Netherlands Opera in 1975, almost thirty years after it was written. We will never know if it fulfills the composer's vision. But Ullmann affirmed life through art and despite all odds, left us with a masterpiece and a message: never forget. - Susan Narucki
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The Loudspeaker introduces each character in the opera, including Kaiser Overall, who lives alone in a vast palace, waging war.
Scene One: Death and Harlequin lament that there is no place for laughter or ritual. The Drummer Girl arrives with the Kaiser's new declaration for total destruction. She attempts to bully Death into leading the charge. Death is infuriated and decides to go on strike.
Scene Two: The Kaiser manages the war over the telephone. Gradually, he becomes aware of a mysterious change: no one is able to die. He is enraged and bewildered.
Scene Three: the Soldier and the terrified Girl meet on the battlefield. He is overcome with pity and cannot kill her. The Drummer Girl commands the Soldier to return to war. He refuses.
Scene Four: The Kaiser is unnerved by the reports of chaos and suffering. Harlequin sings of childhood and The Drummer Girl vows to keep the Kaiser's deeds a secret. The Kaiser begins to question his actions. Death returns; The Kaiser asks him to resume his work. Death agrees, on one condition - The Kaiser must be the first to die. The Kaiser finally agrees.
DER KAISER VON ATLANTIS oder Die Tod-Verweigerung opus 49 (1943)
(The Kaiser of Atlantis or Death's Refusal) An opera in one act
music by Viktor Ullmann 1898 - c. 1944 libretto by Peter Klein
Susan Narucki Director
Steven Schick Conductor
KAISER OVERALL/VINCE B. VINCENT
DER TOD/PHILIP LARSON
DER TROMMLER/TIFFANY DU MOUCHELLE
DER LAUTSPRECHER/RYAN REITHMEIER
EIN SOLDAT/GERALD SEMINATORE
Jessica Flores Head of Production, Department of Music
Nicholas J. Patin Lighting Designer
Gaeun Kim Scenic Designer
Orli Nativ Costume Designer
Megan Sprowls Stage Manager
Jonathan Hepfer Assistant Conductor
Steven Lewis Musical Preparation/Rehearsal Pianist
PETER CLARKE, VIOLIN I
KIMBERLY HAIN, VIOLIN II
LINDA PIATT, VIOLA
JENNIFER BEWERSE, CELLO
SCOTT WORTHINGTON, DOUBLE BASS
RACHEL BEETZ, FLUTE
SCOTT PAULSON, OBOE
CURT MILLER, CLARINET
DAVID BORGO, SAXOPHONE
CALVIN PRICE, TRUMPET
PABLO GOMEZ CANO, GUITAR AND BANJO
KYLE BLAIR, CEMBALO, PIANO AND SYNTHESIZER
LOUISE DEVENISH, PERCUSSION
STEVE SOLOOK, PERCUSSION
DER KAISER VON ATLANTIS is supported by The Department of Music and The Division of Arts and Humanities at the University of California, San Diego. It is presented in cooperation with the Department of Theater and Dance at UCSD.