Monday, July 16, 2018

Santa Fe Opera's "Doctor Atomic" is first John Adams opera at company

Ryan McKinny and Daniel Okulitch (Photo: Ken Howard, Santa Fe Opera, 2018)
The Santa Fe Opera is presenting its first John Adams opera ever, which is surprising considering their historic dedication to both new opera and those by American composers. The all-star cast includes barihunks Ryan McKinny as Robert Oppenheimer, Andrew Harris as Edward Teller and Daniel Okulitch as General Groves, as well as Julia Bullock as Kitty Oppenheimer, Ben Bliss as Robert Wilson, Meredith Arwady as Pasqualita and Tim Mix as Jack Hubbard.

Much of the opera actually takes place just 33 miles from Santa Fe in Los Alamos and Alamogordo, where the detonation of the first atomic bomb took place.

Andrew Harris and Ryan McKinny (Photo: Ken Howard, Santa Fe Opera, 2018)
First performed in 2005 at the San Francisco Opera, Doctor Atomic reunited composer John Adams with librettist and stage director Peter Sellars, whose earlier collaborations included Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer. The European premiere took place at De Nederlandse Opera in 2007 and The Metropolitan Opera broadcast the work nationally in 2008.

Much of the text from the opera was adapted from declassified U.S. government documents and communications among 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 Tewa Indian song.

Gerald Finley sings "Batter My Heart, Three-Personed God"

Perhaps the most famous piece from the opera is the baritone aria "Batter My Heart, Three-Personed God" with text by the poet John Donne. The poem actually inspired Oppenheimer to name his test site for the atomic bomb “Trinity.”

Additional performances at the Santa Fe Opera are on July 27, and August 2, 7 and 16. Tickets are available online.

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