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John Adams: Doctor Atomic

3.9 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The longing to overcome human boundaries lead the physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer to begin an experiment that formed a threat to the whole of humanity, and whose scientific results still do today. The question of the moral implications of the atomic bomb is raised in John Adams opera, just as much as that of the influence on the private lives of the main characters. Doctor Atomic is the fifth work to result from almost twenty years of collaboration between the American composer and his fellow American director and Erasmus Prize-winner Peter Sellars. Doctor Atomic concerns itself with the work of J. Robert Oppenheimer and his team of scientists at the test site of the first atomic bomb outside Los Alamos, New Mexico during the lead-up to the first detonation. As Zero Hour relentlessly approaches and conditions become less and less favorable, individual tensions build feverishly and Oppenheimer and his staff struggle with the moral implications of their work on 'the Gadget', and the strong possibility of global annihilation. Recorded in high definition video and true surround sound, John Adams' fascinating, overwhelming score and Peter Sellars' forceful staging (and TV direction) portray Oppenheimer, exquisitely sung by Gerald Finley, as a profoundly troubled man, at odds with himself but moving inexorably forward, representative of the great ethical dilemmas of humanity itself.

Review

In documentaries on the "Doctor Atomic" DVDs, the vignettes of Sellars talking about his mission offer a characteristic sense of art at its most stubbornly idealistic...Adams himself says on the DVD that "Doctor Atomic" draws on the vocabulary of the overwrought scores to 1950s sci-fi B movies, except with all the camp stripped away so you are left with pure anxiety conveyed by certain sound effects and timbres at key moments. But there are also moments of rich beauty. In the second scene, when the setting shifts from the lab to Robert and Kitty Oppenheimer's bedroom, the score is so purely gorgeous it could make you cry. -- Washington Post, Anne Midgette, October 19, 2008

Included in 2008: The Year in Review
The Ten Best Classical Music Recordings of 2008 by Alex Ross -- The New Yorker, Alex Ross, December 15, 2008

The best part of ``Doctor Atomic'' is Adams's multilayered score, a daring mix of modernism harking back to Edgard Varese, sci-fi pulp electronics and soaring lyricism. -- Bloomberg.com, Robert Hilferty, October 13, 2008

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Gerald Finley, Jessica Rivera, Eric Owens, Jay Hunter Morris, Lawrence Renes
  • Directors: Peter Sellars
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Classical, Color, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS 5.1), English (PCM Stereo)
  • Subtitles: Dutch, English, French, Italian, Spanish
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Opus Arte
  • DVD Release Date: September 30, 2008
  • Run Time: 288 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001BSH18O
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,930 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "John Adams: Doctor Atomic" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I've held off writing about Dr. Atomic. I've now watched it for the third time and haven't changed my mind. It's a masterpiece. There's no denying some of the power of the score, but it is in the many more introspective moments that I find its most arresting beauty and power.

Gerald Finley - a singer I went nuts for as Papageno nearly 20 years ago, still has a marvelously appealing boyish handsomeness that suits this role to a tee. This could be the role of his career so far. The voice is in absolutely peak condition, one of the most beautiful baritones singing today (in my opinion) with a winning combination of brightness, mellowness, one of the most even-sounding vibratos of any singer today and a light rich quality that simply gleams. His body was made for the stage, moving with a relaxed athleticism, and knows how to strike a pose that hits you like a spotlight. In many regards, his intensity reminds me of another favorite singer of mine, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in that his gestures - while highly theatrical, seem germane, perfectly suited to the character - as though they could not be performed any other way. This is star quality that elevates a performance to greatness.

The most powerful moment for me remains the ending of the first act, Oppenheimer's brilliant prayer/aria "Batter my heart, three person'd God." I cannot watch this without tears pouring from first to last. The music itself is remarkable, but combined with Finley's voice, and passionate interpretation, the heightened sense of movement by Peter Sellars and the staging itself, it becomes nearly unbearable in its intensity and beauty.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
John Adams' "Doctor Atomic" is a classic in the making. Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times calls it "grimly humane and musically intricate." These DVDs were recorded at the Netherlands Opera in June 2007, in a co-production with the San Francisco Opera (which premiered the work in October 2005) and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The Met staged and recorded "Doctor Atomic" in October 2008. New Yorker critic Alex Ross has written a highly informative article about "Doctor Atomic," which can be found on his website, therestisnoise.com.

The cast of this video largely duplicates that of the premiere--
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Gerald Finley
Kitty Oppenheimer: Jessica Rivera
General Leslie Groves: Eric Owens
Edward Teller: Richard Paul Fink
Jack Hubbard: James Maddalena
Robert Wilson: Thomas Glenn
Captain James Nolan: Jay Hunter Morris
Pasqualita: Ellen Rabiner
Musical Director: Lawrence Renes
Stage Director: Peter Sellars
Finley, Owens, and Fink will also appear in the Met production. The DVD includes a detailed, helpful synopsis of the plot and an interview with director Peter Sellars.

The opera focuses on the personal and ethical dilemmas faced by the characters preceding the first atomic bomb test in New Mexico in 1945. Sellars prepared the libretto for the opera, which is compiled from various sources, including writings of atomic scientists and government officials; poetry by Baudelaire, John Donne,and Muriel Rukeyser; and the Bhagavad Gita. The result is profoundly thought-provoking and moving. Adams' music always fits the texts, whether scientific, political, romantic, or philosophical.
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Comment 42 of 49 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Opera on DVD has taken a great leap forward this year and this opera is no exception. The DVD is presented in 16:9 widescreen format with DTS sound.

Dr. Atomic is to me what opera is all about -- merging story with emotion and this opera packs big emotional kick.

My favorite extra, on disc 1, is the visual synopsis of opera allowing you to easily get to know all the characters.

I highly recommend it.
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The plot is based on the last days of the Manhattan project, but in fact the greatness of this opera is the portraying of the human struggles of the people involved in the project. The plot itself is the reason to get into those very human emotions and struggle, so the full accuracy of the plot doesn't seem to me of crucial importance. The best music is for those internal looking moments, with the necessary "actions" to put everything in perspective (sounds familiar?). Some of the tense moments in the plot are for music only, masterly composed by John Adams.
I have the feeling the production is over played which sometimes disturbs and distracts. In addition, some of the close-ups (for the DVD) are over-dramatic veering the attention from the poetry and the music. The music and the lyrics are beautiful and strong enough. It doesn't need over-acting and distractions like people moving fast on the scene.
The last scene of first act is impressive, in particular when Oppenheimer silhouette raises his hand and finger to the "Gadget" (God?)... but there is no finger responding this time.
Remembering that all music (and opera) was once new, this DVD is recommended for all Opera lovers and enthusiasts.
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