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John Adams
Doctor Atomic
San Francisco Opera 16.10.05

Knowledge and Responsibilty. Love and Obligation. Themes in opera are grand and universal. Who wouldn't expect to find them ripe for song in 20th century American history?

John Adams' new opera, Doctor Atomic, takes place in Los Alamos in 1945 as scientists and soldiers prepare to help usher in the nuclear age. Ambitious? You bet.

Beginning and ending with these pre-recorded sound collage/radio pieces, the work is filled with the tautness and rigidity typical of other, post-minimalist opera. Yet, its dense, rich musicality assures us - this stuff is gonna be around for a while.

Adams finds our heroes not too far from our own lives as newspaper readers and television watchers. We recognize their peril as a shared experience that resonates with us like that worn sweater we wear even when we aren't that cold.

After all, we're not Robert Oppenheimer, but he sure is us.

Copyright © 2005 Alice Kenner e-mail address

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