NPR logo John Adams Writes an Opera for the Atomic Age

John Adams Writes an Opera for the Atomic Age

John Adams Writes an Opera for the Atomic Age

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Hear Adams on 'Doctor Atomic,' Music from the Opera

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Composer John Adams Deborah O'Grady hide caption

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The eagerly anticipated third opera from John Adams, Doctor Atomic, premiered Oct. 1 at the San Francisco Opera. Based on Richard Rhodes' book The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Adams' work focuses on physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and the project he led to create — and detonate — the first atomic bomb.

Gerald Finley as J. Robert Oppenheimer, left, in a scene from the world premiere of Adams' Doctor Atomic. San Francisco Opera hide caption

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Gerald Finley as J. Robert Oppenheimer, left, in a scene from the world premiere of Adams' Doctor Atomic.

San Francisco Opera

Adams, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for his composition On the Transmigration of Souls, wrote Doctor Atomic with his longtime collaborator and librettist, Peter Sellars. Sellars drew from original source material, including personal memoirs, technical manuals of nuclear physics and declassified government documents.

Adams discusses Doctor Atomic and Alex Ross of The New Yorker offers a critical perspective.

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