Rice University to Present ‘Der Kaiser von Atlantis’

By Logan Martell

The Opera Department and Chamber Orchestra of Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music are set to present their first virtual performance with “Der Kaiser von Atlantis,” the only opera by composer Viktor Ullmann and librettist Peter Kien.

While the opera was rehearsed in the ghetto of Theresienstadt in 1944, it was never never given a performance during Ullmann and Kien’s lifetime due to censorship by the Nazi party. The two were sent to Auschwitz, where they met their end, but Ullmann was able to pass the completed work to Emil Utitz, who was the librarian of Theresienstadt.

The world premiere came 30 years later when Dutch National Opera performed it in Amsterdam.

“It was important to me during these extreme circumstances to create a project that would be meaningful, carry musical significance and be emotionally poignant at the same time for my students,” writes Miah Im, Director of Opera Studies. “I knew ‘Der Kaiser von Atlantis’ would be the perfect opera to accomplish this initiative.”

The school will follow health regulations to ensure the safety of its artists, with masks, testing, and distancing, being followed regularly. The 15 members of the orchestra recorded their parts separately, and the singers recorded on October 9 and 10.

Swagger Film and projection designer S. Katy Tucker will produce the finished video.