Sunday, November 09, 2008

doctor atomic

Yesterday I finally made it to one of those Met Live in HD broadcast thingies. It was Doctor Atomic, John Adams's opera about the Manhattan Project. It focuses on Robert Oppenheimer in the time leading up to the Trinity test. I gather that I slept through the best part, Oppenheimer's aria at the end of the first act about losing his soul, but I still really liked the show.

Peter Sellars, the librettist, used actual excerpts from documents - letters and reports and stuff. So you get a military meteorologist singing about inversion layers and subtropical airmasses (while the obnoxious general tries to bully him into letting the test go forward). They were worried about the weather because don't want some sudden winds to kick up and spread fallout through nearby towns. People sing about the psychological effects of dropping giant bombs on Japanese cities and the responsibility of scientists to speak out about the moral implications of their work. It's good stuff.

A lot of the crowd was who you'd think would go to an opera - I've never seen so many walkers in a movie theater. But there were younger people, too, and I didn't feel too out of place in my "Science + Music = Sexy" t-shirt. Before the show starts, the screen shows the scene inside the Met - live cameras and real crowd noise. You see the stage manager call the conductor to the pit, then follow him as he walks in. Gerald Finley walked off stage from his big aria at the end of act 1 into the arms of the interviewer; they wandered the halls backstage and chatted, then she traded him for the composer.

I pretty highly recommend the whole thing. It was $23, but that's a heck of a lot cheaper than going in person, and opera houses generally don't allow popcorn. They're rerunning Doctor Atomic a week from Wednesday, the 19th. The next live broadcast is The Damnation of Faust on Saturday, November 22. I can't go to that one, but I'd love to catch Thaïs on December 20th with Renée Fleming and Thomas Hampson.

Omg. I just checked and Thaïs is sold out at this theater. Gosh...guess I'd better start buying tickets for later in the season.


Sophist said...

Holy crap I LOVED Doctor Atomic. And you did sleep through the best aria of the show. :-) I was lucky, got to see the world premier in San Francisco... John Adams lives here! When I was little I really liked the piece John Adams wrote, called "Judah to Ocean." I assumed the name was some biblical reference. I realized after moving here that that it was named for the Judah St. to Ocean St. bus line. Cool huh?

towwas said...

Yeah...I'm halfway tempted to go see it again so I can stay awake for that aria, but I'm not sure it's worth $23 and several hours. Oh wait, and it's a Wednesday night. Yeah, never mind. I'll have to find a recording somewhere. :)

Sophist said...

there must be a clip of that aria somewhere . a recording?

towwas said...

Yeah...I bet I could find it somewhere. Hmmmm.