orff-ullman (2)-13688221651317913815Chicago Opera Theater (COT) is proud to present their Viewpoints series featuring World War II-era films in conjunction with COT’s upcoming double-bill, Viktor Ullmann’s “The Emperor of Atlantis” and Carl Orff’s “The Clever One.” Ernst Lubitsch’s 1942 “To Be or Not to Be” will screen at Facets Multimedia (1517 W. Fullerton Ave) on Sunday, May 18 at 12 p.m. “The Great Dictator,” Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 classic, will play at Music Box Theatre (3733 N Southport Ave) Sunday, June 1 at 12 p.m.Following each film there will be a discussion paired with a live performance of highlights from COT’s spring production.

The Chicago Opera Theater’s Viewpoints is a series of events programmed around each opera production and specially designed to enrich the audience experience at upcoming productions. Most often in collaboration with other cultural organizations in Chicago, each Viewpoint is intended to stimulate conversation, enhance contextual and conceptual understanding and further engage the curiosity of the audience. These particular films have many similarities to “The Emperor of Atlantis” and “The Clever One,” as both the operas and the films explore themes of subversion, persecution and the Nazi regime during World War II with a satirical spirit.

To complement its double bill, COT has chosen to screen two films which share the production’s spirit of zany comedy and biting satire. Ernst Lubitsch’s 1942 comedy “To Be or Not to Be” is one of the first of its kind to directly satirize Hitler and the Nazis in film. Carole Lombard and Jack Benny star in this clever, comedic tale of a Polish theater troupe put out of business by the Nazis until they become involved in espionage and find their skills put to the ultimate test.

“The Great Dictator,” Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 first feature-length “talkie,” spotlights a satirical dictator whose demise is brought about by a Jewish barber who bears a striking resemblance to the tyrannical leader. In the film, Charlie Chaplin offers a cutting caricature of Adolf Hitler. “The Great Dictator” boldly targeted the fascist leader before the United States’ official entry into World War II and is an audacious amalgam of politics and slapstick humor that culminates in Chaplin’s famously impassioned plea for tolerance. Joining COT for the screening to share her views on the power of satire as comedy is Anne Libera, the Director of Comedy Studies at The Second City.

“The Emperor of Atlantis” (Der Kaiser von Atlantis) and “The Clever One” (Die Kluge) are two satires about oppression and dictatorship. Both operas were composed in 1943 but under vastly different circumstances: Ullmann penned “The Emperor of Atlantis” from the camp-ghetto of Terezin, while Orff enjoyed privileged status as a leading German composer when he wrote “The Clever One.” The historical tension between these two works is obvious. On one side is Ullmann, who vanished during the Third Reich; on the other side is Orff, whose “Carmina Burana” is performed every day somewhere on this planet and who paid lip service to the Nazis in the same manner as Strauss.

Written for a performance by prisoners within the walls of the Theresienstadt concentration camp, Ullmann’s work, “The Emperor of Atlantis,” is a satire of fascism. The story takes place in Atlantis amidst a group of comical characters where Emperor Overall advocates total war against everyone and Death retires from his duties. The score contains musical quotations ranging from blues to the German National Anthem, “Deutschland über Alles,” performed in the style of a Bach chorale. In contrast, the fairytale opera “The Clever One,” by Carl Orff, best known for his perennial favorite “Carmina Burana,” tells of a foolish, tyrannical king being bested by a clever woman, a folktale found in many cultures. The composer also wrote his own libretto, based on the Grimm’s Fairy Tale “The Peasant’s Wise Daughter” (Die Kluge Bauerntochter).

Ernst Lubitsch’s 1942 “To Be or Not to Be” will screen at Facets Multimedia, 1517 W. Fullerton Ave, on Sunday, May 18 at 12 p.m. Tickets are $5 for COT Subscribers and Facet Members, $9 for the general public. “The Great Dictator,” Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 classic, will play at Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave, Sunday, June 1 at 12 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance, $12 at the door, and $8 for seniors and students. For tickets or more information, visit or call 312.704.8414.

About “The Emperor of Atlantis” and “The Clever One”
“The Emperor of Atlantis” and “The Clever One” will be performed at the DePaul’s Merle Reskin Theatre (60 E. Balbo) Tickets are priced from $35 – $125 and can be purchased by calling 312.704.8414 or The total running time is two hours and 30 minutes including one intermission.

Opera Performance Schedule

  • Saturday, May 31, 7:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, June 4, 7:30 p.m.
  • Friday, June 6, 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, June 8, 3 p.m.
About Chicago Opera Theater
Chicago Opera Theater (COT) is an innovative, nationally recognized opera company that engages a curious audience through adventurous opera experiences of new and rarely performed works. COT, established in 1974 by Alan Stone, is a founding resident company of the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park.  New General Director Andreas Mitisek is known for his adventurous repertory, visionary leadership, fundraising skills, and innovative audience-building initiatives.

Chicago Opera Theater has carved a significant place for itself in the operatic life of Chicago and has reached an audience of hundreds of thousands through its main stage performances, community engagement, education programs in Chicago Public Schools, as well as its renowned Young Artist Program.

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