John Adams: Doctor Atomic
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The longing to overcome human boundaries led 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.Press Reviews
"The cast is flawless...Adams has created a beautiful provocative work that refreshes the repertoire." (The Times)
"Peter Sellars's film of the opera is expressionistic, claustrophobic, sometimes deliberately out of focus. The sound quality is exceptionally good, as is the singing and playing under conductor Lawrence Renes." (BBC Music Magazine)
"Gerald Finley carries the problems of the world on his shoulders as Oppenheimer and the Netherlands Philharmonic and Lawrence Renes play like it's the best score since Fidelio. " (Gramophone)Cast
Gerald Finley (J. Robert Oppenheimer)
Jessica Rivera (Kitty Oppenheimer)
Eric Owens (General Leslie Groves)
Richard Paul Fink (Edward Teller)
James Maddalena (Jack Hubbard)
Thomas Glenn (Robert Wilson)
Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra; Lawrence Renes
Company: De Nederlandse Opera
Stage Director: Peter Sellars
Catalogue Number: OABD7020D
Date of Performance: 2007
Running Time: 230 minutes
Sound: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 & 2.0; Dolby Digital 5.1
Aspect Ratio: 1080i High Definition / 16:9
Subtitles: EN, FR, DE, ES, IT, NE
Label: Opus Arte
The cast is flawless… Adams has created a beautiful
provocative work that refreshes the repertoire. --The Times
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
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
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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.
But the question boils down to the music. Is it more than the production? It will be interesting to see how it fares with a new production such as the MET just put on. There are a few arioso sections but not built on melody. Everything is recitative - perhsps influenced by Monteverdi. The music serves the text admirably in its frightening noises - especially when evoking the terror of the bomb. But you certainly won't be humming anything on the way out. Unlike serialism it is not hard to take. But it is quite dry and I wonder if the recitative might be better replaced by talking over the orchestra. It certainly must have been tiring to sing.