Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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Dr. Atomic – A Dud

Dr. Atomic

Dr. Atomic

What a dud. If you are going to watch Dr. Atomic, do so because you have an interest in the Manhattan Project; do not watch Dr. Atomic because you had the notion that the visuals were going to blow you away. Yes, certain theatre visual aids were eye opening, like the portrait based cubicle set, but the ending was far too disappointing to justify the hype that is built up leading to the A-bomb explosion.

I can not identify Dr. Atomic’s saving grace, mostly because it has none. The libretto put me to sleep – I missed a quarter of the first act. I am not belittling the history behind the libretto, don’t misunderstand me, but the appeal this piece put forth was inadequate. Much of Oppenheimer’s private life was dragged on. Not until the end of the second act did my interest perk up – it was A-bomb testing time. Even then, the libretto held no fascination to me. A sincere interest in the Project will be your caffeine for the evening.

In addition, much of the singing was very flat. My ears did not agree with John Adam’s vision. His compilation spanned the course of three hours – it was three hours of singing that went all over the place; there was no drama in the music, no “umph” whatsoever. Sound effects were supposed to make up for the three hours, and that too, fell short. My ears were hit at the end with a tremendously loud hum that I associated with the atomic bomb. And that was it. I expected something more from the explosion, like a real explosion for example. Loud humming thrown in with a flash consisted of the A-bomb. What a dud, really.

Being able to hear exactly what the singers were saying while sitting in the back is no easy feat; enunciation was surperb, the singing was not. Going to the opera because of great enunciation is not a good reason unfortunately.