Doctor Atomic, John Adams and Peter Sellars' much-anticipated opera depicting the days leading up to the first atomic explosion, debuts at San Francisco Opera's War Memorial Opera House tonight.
Doctor Atomic is the fifth collaboration between the composer and director and the third based on historical events: Sellars staged Adams' Nixon in China in 1987 and The Death of Klinghoffer in 1991 (poet Alice Goodman wrote the librettos for both), as well as the 1995 "songplay" I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky? and the 1999 oratorio El Niño.
Sellars is also the librettist for Doctor Atomic, having assembled the work's text from a variety of sources, including memoirs, government documents, the Bhagavad-Gita, and poetry by John Donne, Charles Baudelaire, and Muriel Rukeyser.
The creative team includes set designer Adrianne Lobel, costume designer Dunya Ramicova, lighting designer James F. Ingalls, sound designer Mark Grey, and choreographer Lucinda Childs, who also collaborated with Sellars and Adams on Nixon in China.
The world-premiere performances star Gerald Finley in the central role of scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, Kristine Jepson as his wife Kitty, Richard Paul Fink as Oppenheimer's colleague and nemesis Edward Teller, Thomas Glenn as scientist Robert Wilson, Eric Owens as General Leslie Groves, James Maddalena as meteorologist Jack Hubbard, Jay Hunter Morris as Captain James Nolan of the Army Medical Corps, and Beth Clayton as Pasqualita, Kitty's Tewa Indian maid.
San Francisco Opera's production runs through October 22; it travels to the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Netherlands Opera in 2007.