SCHEDULE
Evenings at 7:30 pm
Venue Info
Performed in Gates Concert Hall, Newman Center for the Performing Arts, University of Denver.
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A Journey of the Human Spirit
A COLORADO COLLABORATION
PERFORMING ARTISTS
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Avi Avital
Avi Avital
Keith Phares
Keith Phares
Katharine Pracht
Katharine Pracht
Steven Paul Spears
Steven Paul Spears
Jeffrey Tucker
Jeffrey Tucker
Ian O'Brien*
Ian O'Brien*
Devon Guthrie
Devon Guthrie
Candice Bergeron
Candice Bergeron
Ben Delony
Ben Delony
Marian Faustino
Marian Faustino
Colby Foss
Colby Foss
Brandon Freeman
Brandon Freeman
Corbin Kalinowski
Corbin Kalinowski
Julie King
Julie King
Damien Patterson
Damien Patterson
Meredith Strathmeyer
Meredith Strathmeyer
Sarah Tallman
Sarah Tallman
Hal Aqua & The Lost Tribe
Hal Aqua & The Lost Tribe
PRODUCTION TEAM
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Garrett Ammon
Garrett Ammon
Ofer Ben-Amots
Ofer Ben-Amots
Maestro Yaacov Bergman
Maestro Yaacov Bergman
Peter Kien
Peter Kien
Ted Huffman
Ted Huffman
Viktor Ullmann
Viktor Ullmann
PROJECT DESCRIPTION
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Planning the Colorado Premiere of The Emperor of Atlantis
The Colorado premiere of The Emperor of Atlantis takes place January 16 and 17, 2013, thanks to a unique collaboration among several of Colorado’s leading arts and cultural organizations, including Central City Opera, Colorado Symphony, The Newman Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Denver, Ballet Nouveau Colorado, Colorado College, and The Mizel Arts and Culture Center at the Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center.  Colorado Public Radio will broadcast the performance live.
 
This joint effort started with a simple conversation in the spring of 2007 between Colorado Public Radio on air personality, Monika Vischer, and JCC Chief Executive Officer, Stuart Raynor.  A few years before, Vischer created an award-winning 5-part radio documentary series with James Conlon, Music Director of LA Opera, focused on silenced music of the Holocaust.  Vischer had heard about Raynor’s involvement in producing The Emperor of Atlantis with Conlon in association with the Houston Grand Opera.  Dedicated to the mission of having these works performed, they began to talk about how The Emperor could be performed in Denver.  One conversation led to another and the team of those signing onto the mission grew.
 
“This opera is now being discovered in all of the world’s major arts centers.  Its time for Denver is now,” said Vischer, who spearheaded plans for The Emperor’s debut outside of her role as classical host for Colorado Public Radio.  “This is not just a clever work that tells a powerful story of the Holocaust’s atrocities, it is a great work of art that deserves its rightful place in history.  We have to do our part to make that happen.  It’s been my great honor to help bring these partnering organizations together to do just that.”
 
Everyone agreed that no tyrant should have the power to silence the arts.  As Steve Seifert of DU’s Newman Center said, “By ensuring that the voices of those persecuted by the Nazis will be heard, even long after the deaths of both oppressed and oppressors, we take a stand for the right of all present and future artists who may be terrorized by tyrants to be heard.”
 
The Emperor of Atlantis Becomes A Journey of the Human Spirit
 
During their discussions about the project, the team decided to expand the experience of the opera, creating, as it were, both a preface and an epilogue.  Thus, the audience’s first experiences of the evening will involve traditional Eastern European klezmer music, celebrating life and leading the audience into the story of the opera.  Seamlessly integrated at the end of the opera, a new work of dance will round out the experience, creating new communities of hope after so much death.  The dance will be choreographed by BNC’s Garrett Ammon and set to music for chamber orchestra, mandolin and clarinet solos, combining eastern European Jewish folk themes with a modern dynamic, by Ofer Ben-Amots, Israeli born composer and Chair of the Music Department of Colorado College.  The mandolin solo part will be played by international sensation Avi Avital.
 
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OPERA HISTORY
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The Holocaust and the Creation of the opera The Emperor of Atlantis

Whenever societies are ruled by tyrants, people are subjected to turmoil, violence and hatred. Creative voices are silenced. Yet a brave and defiant few artists always speak out. Those who do so put their careers and lives in danger. During the Holocaust many artists spoke out, trying to stop the destruction of their society. Two of them were musician/composer Viktor Ullmann and his colleague librettist Peter Kien. Their satiric opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis, oder Die Tod-Verweigerung (The Emperor of Atlantis, or The Refusal of Death) was composed around 1943 while Ullmann and Kien were imprisoned in the former Czech fortress Terezín turned by the Nazis into the transitional concentration camp/ghetto Theresienstadt.

Over its several years in operation, Theresienstadt held over 144,000 Jews from occupied Bohemia. At least 88,000 of them were deported to the death camps. Despite Nazi terror and the desperate conditions, the internees, who included many artists, produced for themselves a rich and creative cultural community, full of great music, art and educational activity. Eventually, the Nazis exploited this haven of the human spirit to deceive Red Cross visitors in 1944, and subsequently exploited it for a self-serving propaganda film.

The one-act opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis was rehearsed at the “model camp” 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 Europe and the United States.

The opera has 20 short sections and runs about fifty minutes. Andrew Porter encapsulates the story this way: “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 to men on one condition – that the Emperor be the first to die. He accepts and sings his farewell.”

Parts of the work are danced and there are some purely spoken sections. Singers are accompanied by a chamber ensemble including such unusual instruments as banjo, harmonium, alto saxophone and harpsichord, because those are the instruments that were available to Ullmann in Theresienstadt. Ullmann incorporated into his score harmonically shifted version of the German national anthem the Deutschlandlied, also known by its first words Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles, the famous Lutheran chorale Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, as well as a theme from the Asrael symphony of Josef Suk. Among Ullmann’s other influences were Paul Hindemith, Kurt Weill and Arnold Schoenberg.