DIRECTORAdams, John / Woolcock, Penny
TITLEDoctor Atomic
DISTRIBUTOROpus Arte, Hearthfield, UK
RUNNING TIME220 minutes

This video of the opera Doctor Atomic focuses on J. Robert Oppenheimer and the scientists in New Mexico during the two weeks preceding the detonation of the first nuclear weapon in 1945. It captures the tensions surrounding the Trinity test as weather conditions deteriorated at the test site and pressures mounted. In a presentation that blends the science and technology of the atomic bomb, the poetry of John Donne and Baudelaire, and the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita, the opera provides an interesting treatment of the complicated moral implications of the weapon as faced by the scientists involved in its creation. Physicists Edward Teller and Robert Wilson, General Leslie Groves (the military head of the Manhattan Project), and Oppenheimer’s wife Kitty also play important roles. The staging at Los Alamos and the stormy test site with the “Fat Man” bomb looming in the background add to the dramatic impact. Composer John Adams has also addressed other significant twentieth century events with his operas, such as Nixon in China and The Death of Kinghoffer (the 1985 hijacking of a cruise ship by Palestinian terrorists). The Metropolitan Opera's website contains features and video about Doctor Atomic, background material on the science, history and current implications of nuclear weapons, and commentary on the opera from veterans, scientists, and historians.

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