DER KAISER VON ATLANTIS (1998)
The emperor with the humble name of Overall declares total war. Everybody against everybody. Death takes exception to this, because he is the only one to take away people's souls. Death goes on strike, so the killed soldiers cannot die, and the only solution to this precarious problem is to make the emperor himself the first real fatality.
DER KAISER VON ATLANTIS was written in the concentration camp Theresienstadt by the composer Viktor Ullmann and the poet Peter Kien. The intention was to perform the opera in the camp, but this was refused by the authorities. Ullmann and Kien both died later in Auschwitz, but the opera was saved by a survivor. The show was performed for the first time in 1975 in Amsterdam. Holland House's production is the first Danish performance.
Formally grotesque, a wonderful mix of medieval play, Commedia and Cabaret, DER KAISER VON ATLANTIS is full of references to the history of music and theatre. This enables great contrasts and fast shifts in which farce and gravity constantly alternate and mix.
The form of the opera makes it extremely raw. You sense the concentration camp and its atrocities, but also the incredible accumulation of interwoven destines and stories. It is funny, but it is also deadly serious.
It is impossible to ignore the historical circumstances of the origin of the opera, but formally as well as thematically DER KAISER VON ATLANTIS reaches far beyond its own historical moment. It is at once a historical document and an ever relevant moral proclamation.
It is a worthy representative of the great musical masterworks that were banned by the Nazis. It is an essential part of 20th century musical literature.
Libretto: Peter Kien
Score: Viktor Josef Ullmann
Direction/Set design: Jacob F. Schokking
Conductor: Kaare Hansen
Kaiser Overall: Hans-Georg Wimmer
Der Lautsprecher: Stig Möglich Rasmussen
Der Tod: Jacob Zethner Møller
Harlekin: Werner Hollweg
Ein Soldat: Ole Justesen
Bubikopf, ein soldat: Evelyn Werner
Der Trommler: Helene Gjerris
Ensemble: Athelas Sinfonietta:
Mads Johansen (flute), Stefan Ingerslev (oboe), Fritz Berthelsen (clarinet), Christian Hougaard (alto saxophone), Kjell-Åke Andersson (trumpet), Thomas Sandberg (percussion), Lars Skov (percussion), Anne Marie Fjord Abildskov (keyboard), Curt Kollavik (guitar/banjo), Anne Søe Iwan (first violin), Brian Quist Jørgensen (second violin), Hege Waldeland (cello), Morten Olsen (bass)
Click track preparation: Gert Sørensen
Light design: Peter Plesner
Computer graphics: Jacob F. Schokking, Arthur Steijn
Dramaturge: Søren Friis Møller
Head of production: Peter Barslev
Producer: Traudi Christensen
Production: Holland House in collaboration with The Goethe Institute, Copenhagen
Supported by The Danish Arts Foundation, Beckett-Foundation, KIT, Lufthansa