In the Wings

Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera

The Emperor of Atlantis: reviewed

Feb 10, 2011 12:05:00 PM
By BLO Staff

The Emperor of
has a truly amazing history--we’ve been talking about it on this very
blog. The piece was written in a Nazi concentration camp in Terezin, but the
original rehearsal process was shut down, and both the composer and librettist
were murdered during the war. For audience members who read about the show
beforehand, the circumstances of the piece become inseparable from the work.
However, BLO’s
production of The Emperor of Atlantis is such a world unto itself that it can
also apparently stand on solid legs with no context at all. I brought a friend
to the show who knew nothing about Der
Kaiser von Atlantis
, and she was blown away by the performance. Only
after the show, did we discuss how the opera came to be. I found it easy to be
sucked into the immediate world of the show when everything was so thoughtful
and visually detailed, but the terrible circumstances of the work’s creation
always hovered, chillingly so. The musical references in the score, from
dance-hall vaudeville to Bach chorale, are so well placed that you can feel the
wry intention behind every note.
The double bill of
The Emperor of Atlantis and After-Image, the world premiere prologue
by Richard Beaudoin, was a completely surrounding theatrical experience. The
opera begun the minute I entered the theater and found the ensemble of
supernumeraries (who were a highly visible and integral part of the show)
stationed throughout the theater, already performing. I had no preconceptions
about what the show should look like (unlike going to see Madama Butterfly, for instance.) It was as
if Kevin Burdette, who led the cast as Death, and his fellow singer-actors (all
physically and vocally stunning) were creating their roles for the first time,
guided by a very strong compositional force furnished by director David
Schweizer and conductor Stephen Lipsitt. In real time, the show seemed to
spring fully formed from nowhere—it is a rare and exciting experience to go to
the opera and not have any idea what is coming next!
More like this,
- Audrey Chait, Brown University

Topics: Opera Annex, Student Posts, The Emperor of Atlantis

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