Doctor Atomic

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John Coolidge Adams


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Doctor Atomic Libretto


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About the opera Doctor Atomic

Doctor Atomic is an opera by the contemporary American composer John Adams, with libretto by Peter Sellars. It premiered at the San Francisco Opera on 1 October 2005. The work focuses on the great stress and anxiety experienced by those at Los Alamos while the test of the first atomic bomb (the "Trinity" test) was being prepared. In 2007, a documentary was made about the creation of the opera, titled Wonders Are Many.
The first act takes place about a month before the bomb is to be tested, and the second act is set in the early morning of 16 July 1945 (the day of the test). During the second act, time frequently slows down for the characters and then snaps back into reality. The opera ends in the final, prolonged moment before the bomb is detonated. Although the original commission for the opera suggested that U.S. physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, the "father of the atomic bomb," be fashioned as a 20th-century Doctor Faustus, Adams and Sellars deliberately attempted to avoid this characterization.
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Roles in Doctor Atomic

J. Robert Oppenheimer Baritone
Kitty Oppenheimer Mezzo-Soprano or Soprano
Gen Leslie Groves Bass
Edward Teller
Robert R. Wilson Tenor
Jack Hubbard Baritone
Captain James Nolan Tenor
Pasqualita Mezzo-Soprano or Contralto

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