Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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Category — Dr. Atomic

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. [Read more →]

December 18, 2008   Comments Off on Dr. Atomic – A Dud

“Doctor Atomic” Bombs

Trying to keep a positive attitude about the upcoming opera, as I walked into the Metropolitan Opera my perspective drastically changed.  Earlier in the week, I was actually looking forward to “Doctor Atomic” since it was based on a topic I was greatly interested in, the atomic bomb.  One thing I was not looking forward to was the opera style singing that was to be expected in the performance.  When I think of opera, I imagine heavy-set opera singers singing so loud that it shatters wine glasses and audience members’ eyeglasses.  This was the way it was in the old days, opera singers were usually heavy men and women because they were the only singers capable of hitting the loudest notes.   I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was wrong about the big-boned singers.  To be fair, as an eighteen-year-old college student, opera is not my music genre of choice.  I would be much happier listening to hip-hop, rap, or even country music. [Read more →]

December 16, 2008   Comments Off on “Doctor Atomic” Bombs

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. [Read more →]

December 16, 2008   Comments Off on Where is the bomb?

Dr. Atomic: More History Lesson Than Opera

The lights dim, the stage is set, and suddenly the audience is thrust into the mid-1940’s. There is a palpable sense of tension as the audience comes to the understanding that what s being portrayed is the nerve center of the project behind the creation of the atomic bomb. The voices of the scientist sing out as they describe the science behind the creation of this terrible device. As they finish their discourse on molecular structure, the story becomes real and personal. We are shown the high-stakes world of radical science, where any new development equals a possible new weapon to be used to wage war. Morals and ethics [Read more →]

December 9, 2008   1 Comment

Dr. Atomic – One Non-explosive Opera

Robert Oppenheimer in Dr. Atomic

Robert Oppenheimer in Dr. Atomic

The Manhattan Project was one of the most secretive projects in the history of the United States. It took place during World War II and its purpose was to create a bomb by splitting atoms apart. This project was a success and created one of the most devastating bombs ever used by mankind, the atomic bomb. John Adam’s Dr. Atomic at the Metropolitan Opera is an opera about the birth of the atomic bomb and the technology, science, power and responsibility of the whole world on the scientists’ shoulders. [Read more →]

December 6, 2008   Comments Off on Dr. Atomic – One Non-explosive Opera

Dr. Atomic

In very, very short, Dr. Atomic was a letdown.  It was so built up in my mind, with all the talk of its radical libretto and dramatic background story.  I was ready for a mind-blowing first opera, both in the message that it would convey and the majesty of the actual performance.  I was shockingly underwhelmed.  As the brilliant stage lit up in stark light and growling music I stiffened my self in anticipation that there would be chills slipping up and down my spine from first note to last.  Fifteen minutes in and I was slumped, devoid of emotion and almost developing a headache. [Read more →]

December 2, 2008   1 Comment

Dr. Atomic

As you walk across the glistening White Sands desert in central New Mexico, you would never have imagined that a historic event had happened there 63 years ago. You pick up a green, glassy substance. What lies on your hand is trinitite, evidence of the first atomic explosion. What happened here, the events that lead to the detonation, and the psychological fear and stress of those involved in the Manhattan Project is the subject of the opera “Doctor Atomic” with dramatic music by John Adams and a libretto by Peter Sellars. Doctor Atomic brilliantly revived the historic yet modern event that marked mankind’s highest ambitions and deepest fears. [Read more →]

November 26, 2008   1 Comment



What’s makes judging Sellars and Adams’ Dr. Atomic difficult is not that any individual element is or isn’t done particularly well.  On the contrary, there is no doubt that very little in Dr. Atomic is done well.  What makes passing verdict difficult is that Dr. Atomic, despite using a laudable libretto as its foundation, still displays enough insightful thinking to make it worth watching. [Read more →]


Dr. Atomic

My mixed emotions about Dr. Atomic, an opera composed by John Adams, are quite alike those of Robert J. Oppenheimer when he was creating the atomic bomb. The process of watching the opera in its beauty was alluring, but the end product was puzzling. My expectations for an intriguing opera ended with disappointment. [Read more →]

November 23, 2008   1 Comment

Dr. Atomic Bombs

War, tragedy, catastrophe, massacre, bomb, horror, radiation poisoning. These are just a few words that we can associate with the end of World War II and the dropping of the first atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Each one of these words evokes many negative emotions and may even bring some to tears considering the magnitude of destruction that this event caused. As viewers went to watch Dr. Atomic, an opera depicting the Manhattan Project itself, they expected to get the sense of these feelings: to put themselves at the scene and to experience what the scientists experienced. Unfortunately, due to sub-par voices, an overly simplistic story line, and a dissatisfying ending, this opera did not evoke much empathy or feeling. [Read more →]

November 19, 2008   Comments Off on Dr. Atomic Bombs