Dr. Atomic

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An opera based on the building tensions of the scientists and their families during the month prior to the first test of the first atomic bomb.
Format: Opera
Cast Size: 6M/2F
Character breakdown

J. Robert Oppenheimer, baritone
Kitty Oppenheimer, mezzo-soprano or soprano
Gen Leslie Groves, bass
Edward Teller, dramatic baritone
Robert R. Wilson, tenor
Jack Hubbard, baritone
Captain James Nolan, tenor
Pasqualita, mezzo-soprano or contralto



In 2007, Adams adapted the opera into the Doctor Atomic Symphony. Music was taken from the overture, various interludes and orchestral settings were made of arias like Oppenheimer’s signature “Batter My Heart.” The work was first premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conducted by the composer on August 21, 2007, at a BBC Proms concert. The work was later performed at Carnegie Hall in Spring 2008. Originally composed in four movements and lasting 45 minutes, the symphony was revised by Adams to just three movements (played without a break) and 25 minutes’ length. This version was recorded in 2008 by the St. Louis Symphony, conducted by David Robertson and released by Nonesuch Records on July 20, 2009.

Original or Prominent Production: Premiered at the San Francisco Opera, October 1, 2005.
Original Source Material: Sellars adapted the libretto from primary historical sources. Much of the text from the opera was adapted from declassified U.S. government documents and communications among the scientists, government officials, and military personnel who were involved in the project. Other borrowed texts include poetry by Charles Baudelaire and Muriel Rukeyser, the Holy Sonnets of John Donne, quotes from the Bhagavad Gita, and a traditional TewaIndian song.
Nationality of Author:
Original Language: English

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