The Chicago Opera Theater Presents: The Great Dictator

Sir Charlie Chaplin’s first feature-length “talkie”, The Great Dictator, spotlights a satirical dictator whose demise is brought about by a Jewish barber who bears a striking resemblance to the tyrannical leader. The event will feature live musical excerpts from Chicago Opera Theater’s upcoming opera, the satirical double bill including Ullmann’s The Emperor of Atlantis and Orff’s The Clever One.

Following the film there will be a discussion featuring Andreas Mitisek (Director / Production Designer, Chicago Opera Theater) and Anne Libera (Director of Comedy Studies, The Second City) paired with a live performance of highlights from Chicago Opera Theatre’s spring productions of The Emperor of Atlantis and Orff’s The Clever One.

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.

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).

Following the film there will be a brief discussion regarding the use of satire and humor in entertainment featuring Anne Libera of The Second City and Andreas Mitisek of the Chicago Opera Theater.

Andreas Mitisek (Director / Production Designer) Mitisek has been the General Director of Chicago Opera Theater since June of 2012. He is also the Artistic and General Director of Long Beach Opera (LBO) since 2003. A native of Austria, he served as Artistic and Music Director of the Wiener Opera Theater from 1990 to 1997. He is dedicated to attracting new audiences to COT by exploring unorthodox venues and presenting new and rare works (a key attribute of his leadership at LBO). Mitisek has been named by Opera News as one of the 25 people that will be a major force in the field of opera in the coming decade. Mitisek was featured as a LA Tastemaker by LA Times Magazine in 2009, Arts Leader of the Year by the Long Beach Arts Council in 2009, and was highlighted as one of the “2012 People” by LA Weekly. Recent COT credits include: The Fall of the House of Usher; conductor, stage director, and production designer, Maria de Buenos Aires; director and production designer, and Orpheus and Euridice; stage and production director.

Anne Libera (Director of Comedy Studies, The Second City) has worked with The Second City since 1986 and has taught in The Training Center since 1991. Her book, The Second City Almanac of Improvisation is published by Northwestern University Press. For The Second City, she directed The Madness of Curious George and Computer Chips and Salsa, the Theatre on the Lake productions The Second City Goes to War and The Second City Looks at The Windy City as well as touring company productions that have appeared all over the United States, in Edinburgh, Scotland and Vienna, Austria. Outside of Second City, her directing credits include Bunny, Bunny for Illinois Theatre Center and Stephen Colbert’s one man show Describing a Circle at Live Bait. She has been an artistic consultant to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and is on the part-time faculty of Columbia College. She has reviewed theater on WGN radio and written for the NPR news quiz show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Anne serves on the governing board for Gilda’s Club Chicago.

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 via The total running time is two hours and 30 minutes including one intermission.

Opera Performance Schedule:

  • Saturday, May 31, 7:30pm
  • Wednesday, June 4, 7:30pm
  • Friday, June 6, 7:30pm
  • Sunday, June 8, 3:00pm

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. For more information on the Chicago Opera Theater and its programs please visit


$8 In Advance
$12 At the Door
Seniors & Students $8

The Great Dictator

directed by Charles Chaplin

The U.S. was not yet in World War II when Chaplin leveled his comedy arsenal at Der Führer by playing the dual roles of Hitler-like Adenoid Hynkel and a Jewish barber who is a dead-ringer for der Nutsie. Puns, sight gags and slapstick abound as Chaplin skewers fascism, balancing his attack with poignant scenes of a ghetto in the clutches of storm-trooping terror.

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