On September 22, 1968, Ulisse by Luigi Dallapiccola (1904-1975) was premiered at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. The myth of Ulysses occupied the Italian composer throughout his life, and so he wrote the libretto of his last opera himself, inspired by Dante Alighieri's Divina Commedia and based on countless adaptations of the material. In it, Odysseus appears as a torn individual in a restless search for (self-) knowledge. The work, which was composed over a period of several years, is interwoven with a network of twelve-tone series, all of which emerge from the original series known as "Mare I". The 13 episodes of the plot are each characterized by their own timbre: At the center of the symmetrically arranged sequence of images is the darkly orchestrated Hades scene.
Stranded in the realm of the Phaeacians, Odysseus reviews various stations of his odyssey: The seductively self-forgetful world of the Lotophages, the intellectually formative liaison with the sorceress Kirke, and the passage to Hades, where he encounters his deceased mother. Back in his native Ithaca, Odysseus is initially unrecognized and mocked as a "nobody." The pain of his loss of identity drives him to revenge: he kills the suitors who court his wife Penelope before setting off on his last expedition. Alone on the open sea, he finally believes he recognizes the existence of a higher order in which his inner ambivalences are suspended.