For many Jewish composers, the rise of Nazism in Germany and Austria resulted in a stark choice: to stay in an increasingly hostile environment or to leave for foreign lands, cut off from their cultural heritage. Many composers made the difficult decision to leave. Some, like Arnold Schoenberg, who emigrated to the United States, found it difficult to adjust to life outside Europe, struggling at first to achieve creative confidence and recognition. Others, like Kurt Weill (who also emigrated to the United States), positively embraced the new opportunities afforded him by his exile, and he subsequently made a major contribution to American musical theatre. Many composers who stayed in Germany took risks by writing satirical cabaret or embedding secret meanings in songs and plays, as for example Victor Ullman and Franz Peter Kien’s The Emperor of Atlantis.
AT A GLANCE THE EMPEROR OF ATLANTIS (Der Kaiser von Atlantis) or ‘Death Abdicates’ •  Viktor Ullmann (music) & Franz Peter Kien (libretto) •  Written in Theresienstadt in 1943 •  Dared to satirise the political situation of World War II •  Also delivers timeless messages of the power of life and death. •  An opera for seven singers and a thirteen-piece chamber orchestra, written in four scenes •  Set in Atlantis, the Emperor Overall advocates total war against all, leading Death to want to retire from his duties. Explore How do you think they might be effected? GOING THROUGH A GREAT UPHEAVAL IS BOUND TO AFFECT SOMEONE’S CREATIVITY. WELL THEY WOULD CERTAINLY HAVE INTERESTING EXPERIENCES TO INSPIRE THEM…  … BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, THEY MIGHT LOSE THE WILL TO COMPOSE ALTOGETHER. BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST MUSIC AS IDEOLOGY MUSIC AS MENACE MUSIC AS MEMORY MUSIC AS DOCUMENTARY MUSIC AS POWER MUSIC AS RESISTANCE