Opera Composed During The Holocaust Headlines CLO’s Season

August 1, 2019
Contact: John Waller 860 415 6441, jwaller@ctlyricopera.org

Connecticut Lyric Opera is proud to present the first production of its 2019-20 Season, the profoundly moving opera The Emperor of Atlantis (Der Kaiser von Atlantis) by Jewish composer Viktor Ullmann and librettist Peter Kien. Ullmann & Kien collaborated on the opera while imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp and were later sent to their deaths at Auschwitz.

CLO’s award-winning multi-dimensional project has attracted grant funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. The fully-staged opera is sung in an English translation and conducted by CLO Artistic Director Maestro Adrian Sylveen with the CT Virtuosi Orchestra. It will be enhanced by testimony from Holocaust survivors and an exhibit of visual artworks created during times of genocide. CLO Partner, Voices of Hope – an organization of Holocaust survivors and their families – will dramatically heighten the opera’s impact by sharing personal experiences after the performance. The audience will also be able to view an art exhibition, a collection of photos and art reprints created during the Holocaust and more recent mass atrocities including Bosnia-Sarajevo, Rwanda, Syria and Iraq.

Public performances are scheduled in Bridgeport (Sept. 22), New Haven (Sept. 27) and New London (Oct. 10) and Fall River, MA (Oct. 13th). There will also be student performances in those cities and in Hartford, offered as a way for educators to fulfill new curriculum requirements to teach about the Holocaust. Interested educators are encouraged to contact John Waller at CLO (jwaller@ctlyricopera.org) to learn how they can book admission for their students.

Der Kaiser von Atlantis was created in 1943 at the Theresienstadt concentration camp, the “Artists Camp” that was used to deceive the Red Cross, and show how well the Jews were living under the “benevolent” protection of the Third Reich. Poets, artists, composers, playwrights, philosophers and families all lived there, for a while… There was an orchestra, a theatre company and an opera company. There were also torture chambers, tens of thousands of people died from disease or starvation, and above all, it was a transit camp from which more than 100,000 souls were sent to their deaths at Auschwitz, Treblinka and elsewhere.

Ullman and Kien intended Kaiser as a commentary on the genocide of the Holocaust, but also as a statement of hope. In the story, the Emperor decides to wage universal, endless war, but Death, outraged at his arrogance, refuses to cooperate and decrees that no-one can die. In a plot twist at the end of the piece, the opera offers a vision of redemption. SS officers attended a final rehearsal of Kaiser in September 1944, were outraged by what they saw and stopped the production. They shipped Ullmann, Kien, the entire cast, orchestra, and all their families to Auschwitz for immediate liquidation. Only some of the singers and the composition itself survived.

For more information, please visit CLO’s website at http://ctlyricopera.org/