The Emperor of Atlantis

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The Emperor of Atlantis, ruler over much of the world, proclaims universal war and declares that his old ally Death will lead the campaign. Death, offended by the Emperor’s presumption, breaks his sabre; henceforth men will not die. Confusion results: a soldier and a girl-soldier from opposite sides sing a love duet instead of fighting; the sick and suffering find no release. Death offers to return the men on one condition—that the Emperor be the first to die.
Format: One-act opera
Cast Size: 5M/2F



Peter Kien (libretto) and Viktor Ullman (composer).
The 1975 world premiere of “Emperor” in Amsterdam involved an infamous psychic, Rosemary Brown, who claimed Ullmann’s spirit guided her in preparing a performance edition.

See Rovit, Rebecca & Goldfarb, Alvin, Theatrical Performance During the Holocaust: Texts, Documents, Memoirs (Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press, 1999)

Original or Prominent Production: The Netherlands Opera presented the world premiere of the opera on December 16, 1975 at the Bellevue Centre, Amsterdam.
Original Source Material: Ullmann and Kien were inmates at the Nazi concentration camp of Theresienstadt (Terezín), where they collaborated on the opera, around 1943. While the opera received a rehearsal at Theresienstadt in March 1944, it was never performed there, as the Nazi authorities saw in the depiction of Kaiser Overall a satire on Adolf Hitler and banned the opera. Both the composer and the librettist died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944.
Nationality of Author:
Original Language: German
English Language Translator: Aaron Kramer’s English language libretto can be found in the program for the production staged at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, May 19–22, 1977

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