|Wiard Witholt rehearsing Der Kaiser von Atlantis|
He's now performing the title role in Czech composer Viktor Ullmann's Der Kaiser von Atlantis at the Nederlandse Reisopera from May 4-13 in Amsterdam, Enschede, Apeldoorn, Maastricht and Leiden. 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.The opera has had numerous performances worldwide in recent years, including in Kassel, Long Beach, Hamburg, Linz, Boston, Lyon, Vienna, Dijon and a U.K. tour. Other upcoming performances will be in Madrid with Alejandro Marco-Buhrmester and in Vienna with Matteo Loi.
Wiard Witholt studied at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and the New Opera Academy in Amsterdam, graduating in 2005. In 2008, he made his debut at the Royal Theatre La Monnaie Brussels as Le Berger in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande. In the 2009-10 season, he became a full-time member of the Opera House in Dessau. He created Schemariah, the principal character in Hiob, Erich Zeisl's opera based on the novel by Joseph Roth. Last season he sang the Messanger in the world première of Pascal Dusapin's Penthesilea at the Royal Theatre La Monnaie and Dusapin's Passion at the Sydney Festival 2016.
Viktor Ullman and his librettist Peter Kien wrote Der Kaiser von Atlantis while interned at the 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.
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.