The première of <em>Führerbunker</em>, the first and only opera that portrayed Hitler’s final days before his death took place at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener on Feb. 11.</p>
The opera was presented by the Canadian composer/librettist Andrew Ager and sponsored by the Waterloo Centre for German Studies. The performance was carried out completely in German, with the English translation provided as subtitles.
The set consisted of an old-fashioned office desk, a few chairs, and a traditional sofa.
In the opera, Adolf Hitler (Robert Kinar) is rejecting all suggestions of him escaping Berlin but slowly comes to the realization he has lost the war. Hitler’s frustration turns into desperation, and leads to his ultimate decision to commit suicide along his wife, Eva Braun (Bronwyn Thies-Thompson), whom he married 24 hours previously.
The climax of the opera came during Hitler’s tremendous outburst of rage when he was told the army defending Berlin had fallen – his expressions of anger and hatred flooded the stage.
Kinar explained that the main reason he enjoyed his role was Hitler's complexity.
“[The] audience didn’t have an expectation of Hitler’s behaviours … the man suffered through the defeat of the war. With drugs taken a toll on him, Hitler’s breakdown was the most important aspect of his final days.”
Ager explained that the opera took an objective point of view on what actually took place inside the bunker. The opera is based on stories from the survivors of the event and the 2004 film Der Untergang (Downfall), which inspired Ager to compose his opus.
This dramatic tragedy brought out a level of authenticity due to all the characters being based off of real people – Hitler is a real historical villain of unbelievable dimensions. Ager wanted to present him and other people in the bunker as actual living beings instead of “cardboard Nazis” with no personality or character.
When asked why he decided to do an opera about Hitler, Ager described his childhood and how World War II left a deep impression on him. The centre of all of this was Hitler because he was the fundamental player who started WWII. Ager thought that music could bring a different dimension to the expression of the theme, but he had to be careful because the music could not glorify or make the war criminals appear romantic. As a result, the music was sparse and non-melodic, thus creating an atmosphere of fear and claustrophobia.
Führerbunker will be produced again in Toronto in May. Ager is hoping to take the opera to other cities in the future.