Andrew Wilkowske and Cassidy Smith in The Emperor of Atlantis
  • COT/Corey DiNardo
  • Andrew Wilkowske and Cassidy Smith in The Emperor of Atlantis

This weekend, for the first time since its move from the Athenaeum to the Harris Theater a decade ago, Chicago Opera Theater is opening a subscription-season show in a different venue. The double bill of Viktor Ullmann’s The Emperor of Atlantis and Carl Orff’s The Clever One will have a four-performance run beginning Saturday (and continuing June 4, 6, and 8) at DePaul’s Merle Reskin Theatre.

The move to the smaller venue is a onetime budget balancer, according to general director Andreas Mitisek, who adds that COT’s next season will be back at the Harris in full.

The two short operas were both written in the early 1940s under Nazi rule—one in a concentration camp, the other not. The Orff work is “more of a supernatural fairy tale,” Mitisek says, while the Ullmann, composed at Terezin, is a “darker satire.” Both focus on the struggle to control an isolated and dangerous tyrant.

Like much of what we’ve seen lately at COT, the double bill has had a previous run at Long Beach Opera, which Mitisek also heads. COT has also performed the The Emperor of Atlantis before, in 1998; here’s Albert Williams’ review of that production of this “poignant and powerful piece.”

In conjunction with the operas, COT is hosting a screening of Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator at noon on Sunday, June 1, at the Music Box. Shot in 1939 and 1940, this broadly comic and dead-serious parody is Chaplin’s first “talkie” and a strikingly bold response to a threat that the United States—which would subsequently force Chaplin into exile—had yet to acknowledge. The film will be followed by a discussion and excerpts from the operas.