John Adams is, with Steve Reich and Philip Glass, one of the triumvirate of American composers who both anchor their country's music and push its boundaries. At the heart of an Adams score there are always eternal truths about the human condition.
His opera Doctor Atomic was a huge success when it was first staged in San Francisco in 2005, and in its first British staging, at English National Opera in 2009. Throughout its life, it has featured the Canadian-born, British resident baritone Gerald Finley in the role of Dr J Robert Oppenheimer, and Finley returns to the role in this concert performance at the Barbican.
Adams himself conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Singers, and a terrific line-up of soloists alongside Finley: Brindley Sherratt, Andrew Staples, Jennifer Johnston and, as Oppenheimer's anxious wife, Julia Bullock.
The two-act opera opens in the weeks before the testing of the first atomic bomb, developed by Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project; the second act moves to 16 July 1945, the day of the test. As in his previous operas Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer, Adams is more concerned with the personalities behind a momentous, historical event than its physical actions, a practice that lends itself to a concert staging like this.
The text, by opera director Peter Sellars, dovetails extracts from original US government papers and conversations of which records were kept, with sacred texts and poetry. John Donne's "Batter My Heart", set to music at the end of Act One, is quite simply a showstopper.
|What||John Adams's Doctor Atomic, Barbican Hall|
Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS | MAP
|Nearest tube||Barbican (underground)|
On 25 Apr 17, 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£12 - £44|
|Website||Click here for more information and booking|