During the Holocaust many artists spoke out, trying to stop the destruction of their society. Two of them were musician/composer Victor Ullmann and his colleague librettist Peter Kien. Their satiric opera “Der Kaiser von Atlantis, oder Die Tod-Verweigerung” (“The Emperor of Atlantis, or Death’s Refusal”) was composed around 1943 while Ullmann and Kien were imprisoned in the former Czech fortress Terezín turned by the Nazis into the concentration camp/ghetto Theresienstadt.
The one-act opera “Der Kaiser von Atlantis” was rehearsed in Theresienstadt in March 1944. The Nazi authorities, however, understood the depiction of the Emperor as a satire on Adolf Hitler and refused to allow the opera’s performance. Ullmann and Kien were deported in October 1944 to the death camp Auschwitz where they perished. Ullmann entrusted the manuscript to another prisoner, the camp librarian, who survived the war, as did the original manuscript. The opera was first performed by the Netherlands Opera in 1975 and has since been performed throughout
For this Colorado premiere, the co-producers will expand the experience of the opera, creating, as it were, both a preface and an epilogue, featuring both traditional Eastern European klezmer music, and seamlessly integrating into a new work of dance creating new communities of hope. The dance will be choreographed by BNC’s Garrett Ammon and set to “Concertino” by Ofer Ben-Amots, Israeli born composer and Chair of the Music Department of Colorado College.