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DER KAISER VON ATLANTIS ODER DIE TODVERWEIGERUNG (THE EMPEROR OF ATLANTIS OR THE DISOBEDIENCE OF DEATH)

Chamber opera by Viktor Ullmann

Play in one act by Viktor Ullmann. Libretto by Viktor Ullmann and Peter Kien. In German. Recommended for ages: 12 and over

Imagine there is a war ... a war declared by the Emperor of Atlantis, a total war of everyone against everyone else in which corpses are to be converted into phosphorus in processing plants. But one figure disobeys and refuses to serve in such a misanthropic and senseless slaughter – death, who decides not to let anyone die any more. Now, as nobody can be shot dead any longer, enemy soldiers in the field encounter each other as people once again, motivated by love. But the paralyzed land of the «living dead» sinks ever deeper into chaos and despair until death names his price: He will return, provided the Emperor is prepared to be the first one to die.

Created in the face of the daily threat of death in the concentration camp Theresienstadt in 1943 / 1944, this piece is an obvious parable about the Nazi dictatorship. The work was prepared as far as the dress rehearsal by a chamber ensemble whose formation the SS had tolerated is this absurd «model camp» that the Nazis used for propaganda purposes before the first performance was forbidden. In the autumn of 1944 both its authors were deported to the Auschwitz death camp where they were killed. The preserved manuscript and the typescript of the libretto that was written on pulped entry cards from the Theresienstadt concentration camp have been in the possession of the Anthroposophical Society of Dornach since 1987 and are now kept by the Paul Sacher Foundation at the Münsterplatz in Basel. Highly charged with sad humour, and marked with direct quotations, musical lightness, jazzy rhythms and references to the popular music of the time, Viktor Ullmann and Peter Kien have left us a «landmark of intellectual resistance», an hour-long timeless warning against warmongers and mass murderers that still applies to the present day.

Young director Maria-Magdalena Kwaschik («Romeo and Juliet», «Trouble in Tahiti») directs the piece that was premiered posthumously in 1975 in Amsterdam in the foyer of the Grosse Bühne. The musical direction is provided by the Australian conductor, pianist and Director of the Theater Basel’s opera studio OperAvenir Stephen Delaney (whose work also includes «The Gold Bug»).


An OperAvenir production in collaboration with the Hochschule für Musik Basel FHNW /Musik-Akademie Basel


OperAvenir is sponsored by:
HEIVISCH, HIAG, Julius Bär, Novartis

Der Vorverkauf für die Februar-Vorstellungen beginnt am MI 2. Januar 2019. Schulklassen können sich für Billette bereits vorab an schule@theater-basel.ch wenden.

Preisstufe III Kleine Bühne (von 30.– bis 46.–)

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