The In Series is closing out its season with a daring double bill of Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale” and Viktor Ullmann’s “The Emperor of Atlantis.” Seen on Saturday night at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, it is the final production in the tenure of retiring artistic director Carla Hübner, who founded the In Series in 1982.
In this English adaptation by Rick Davis, three dancers portray all the roles, including the spoken lines, somewhat awkwardly. Jaime Coronado’s choreography is both graceful and occasionally jagged, compressed into a space so small that the dancers occasionally bumped into one another or pieces of the set.
Rosalynd Harris beautifully embodied temptress (as the Devil), innocent love (the Princess) and mother for the soldier of Dimitri Gann, often twinned by the menacing doppelganger of Ashley Ivey’s narrator. A selection of about half the music from the original score, in an arrangement for piano, violin and clarinet, did not always hold together securely through the constantly shifting time signatures.
Ullmann and librettist Peter Kien created “Der Kaiser von Atlantis” when they were prisoners at Theresienstadt, the “model” or “cultural” Nazi concentration camp. While the title character was probably a parody of Hitler originally, in director Nick Olcott’s English adaptation the megalomaniacal ruler is obsessed with protecting his country’s borders. For some reason he also uses certain signature phrases such as “you’re fired” and “fake news,” among others.
Stanley Thurston ably conducted the original 1943 orchestration, for the baker’s dozen of instruments Ullmann had on hand, with the harmonium part realized on an electronic keyboard. The cast was uneven, but rich sounds came from Andrew Adelsberger’s nuanced, jaded Death and Andrew Thomas Pardini’s petulant Emperor.
Jarrod Lee made an imposing Loudspeaker Voice, seated in the back row of the orchestra and joining in the elegiac final choral number, which was one of the highlights. Mezzo-soprano Louisa Waycott smiled and powered her way through the role of the Drummer, the Emperor’s insipid mouthpiece, although it was hard to tell from the back rows if her eye makeup was intentionally smoky.
The Emperor of Atlantis will continue on Saturday, June 23, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 24, at 2:30 p.m. at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Tickets $23-$47. inseries.org/the-emperor-of-atlantis .