HISTORY

Der Kaiser von Atlantis, oder Die Tod-Verweigerung (The Emperor of Atlantis, or Death's Refusal) is a one-act opera by Viktor Ullmann with a libretto by Peter Kien. Both 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 Auschwitz concentration camp.
Ullmann entrusted his manuscripts to a fellow-prisoner, Dr. Emil Utiz, former Professor of Philosophy at the German University in Prague, who served as the camp's librarian. Utiz survived the camp and passed the manuscripts on to another survivor, Dr. Hans G. Adler, a friend of Ullmann's, some of whose poems Ullmann had set to music. The score was a working version with edits, substitutions, and alternatives made in the course of rehearsals. Through informal personal connections, the score came to the attention of conductor Kerry Woodward. In the process of preparing a performing edition of the score, Woodward consulted Rosemary Brown. Brown was a prominent spiritualist, known for mediumship with dead composers and for transcribing musical works they dictated. She said she contacted Ullmann and communicated his instructions to Woodward, who incorporated them into his edition. At Brown's direction, Woodward altered the instrumentation of the second part of Death's aria near the end of the opera, substituting strings for harpsichord and adding trumpet and flute.