Ullman and his librettist Peter Kien wrote the opera while interned at Nazi concentration camp of Theresienstadt (Terezín) around 1943. The opera received a rehearsal at Theresienstadt in March 1944, but the Nazi authorities interpreted the work's depiction of the character Kaiser Overall as a satire on Adolf Hitler and did not allow a performance.
Both of Viktor Ullmann's parents were from families of Jewish descent, but had converted to Roman Catholicism before his birth. Ullmann remained active musically at Theresienstadt, where he was a piano accompanist, organized concerts, wrote critiques of musical events, and composed, as part of a cultural circle including Karel Ančerl, Rafael Schachter, Gideon Klein, Hans Krása, and other prominent musicians imprisoned there. Both the composer and the librettist died in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Listen to an entire performance here:
The Netherlands Opera presented the world premiere of the opera December 16, 1975, at the Bellevue Centre in Amsterdam. The opera was performed at Theresienstadt on May 25, 1991, fifty-one years after the initial rehearsal.
Beutel will perform the work with Opera Modern on November 30 and December 2 & 3 at the Maria Theresien-Kaserne. Additional information is available online.
Beutel was just featured in his hometown newspaper, the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, which you can read HERE.