Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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Where is the bomb?

Struggling to concentrate on the tedious, lengthy aria, I lost my focus. Brightness of the stage diminished; soon I won’t be able to see the stage anymore as I began to close my eyes only to hear the soprano vibrating in my ear. This is not what I expected of Dr. Atomic, which opened at the Metropolitan Opera on Oct. 06, 2008. Directed by Penny Woolcock, Dr. Atomic failed to capture its young audiences as well as the majority of wealthy people who left the opera during the intermission. Even the last fifteen minutes of anticipation ended in a single flash of light that has no resemblance to the devastation of the atomic bomb.

Dr. Atomic revealed the tension between scientists during the testing of the atomic bomb, questioned by the necessity of using the bomb. Dr. Atomic, instead of reenacting the testing of the bomb itself, used the personal relationship between Robert Oppenheimer, leading scientist in the Manhattan project, and his wife, Kitty Oppenheimer, to explore what the bomb meant to people who were involved in the testing. The book shelve like building structure was successful in creating a sense of isolation between the scientists, used to illustrate the fear of the government that the scientists would be able to develop the bomb for other countries. The costumes also were chosen for purpose. The color of the costumes blended in to the general mood of the story, gray and haunting.

Though the staging was a success, the opera singing failed to spark any sense of excitement. Lines would be repeated with a pessimistic tone. Comparing to the play South Pacific, another work depicting the struggles of soldiers in the pacific island during the World War II, Dr. Atomic failed to translate the reality of war. While South Pacific brought in the tension of racial and social class struggle, Dr. Atomic lacked the element of surprise.

The opera’s lack of appeal to my hearing sense with the dropping of the bomb overshadowed the brilliant execution in the end of the opera with the Japanese women, asking for help. A shattering noise in the end would have changed the whole atmosphere of the opera, but the director wanted us to be the bomb. And he bombed it.