On this first recording of John Adams's opera Doctor Atomic, the composer leads the BBC Singers and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with a cast led by Gerald Finley, who originated the role of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Peter Sellars created the libretto, drawing from original sources to explore the final hours leading up to the first atomic bomb explosion at the Alamagordo test site in New Mexico in July 1945. "A magnificent accomplishment that easily takes its place alongside the other Adams-Sellars triumphs," exclaims the Los Angeles Times. "It contains music of unearthly splendor." The two-CD boxed set includes a 64-page bound booklet with archival photos, libretto, and an essay by Mark Swed. Grammy Award Nominee: Best Opera Recording.
Grammy Award Nominee: Best Opera Recording
Nonesuch released the first recording of John Adams's 2005 opera, Doctor Atomic, on June 29, 2018. Longtime Adams collaborator Peter Sellars created the libretto for Doctor Atomic, drawing from original sources. The composer leads the BBC Singers and the BBC Symphony Orchestra in this recording, which features a cast led by Gerald Finley, who originated the role of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer. The two-CD boxed set includes a 64-page bound booklet with archival photos, libretto, and an essay by Mark Swed.
In addition to the San Francisco premiere, Finley has sung Oppenheimer in productions in New York, Amsterdam, Chicago, and London. He is joined on the album by Julia Bullock (Kitty Oppenheimer), Brindley Sherratt (Edward Teller), Samuel Sakker (Captain James Nolan), Andrew Staples (Robert Wilson), Jennifer Johnston (Pasqualita), and Aubrey Allicock (General Leslie Groves). This recording was made possible in part through generous support from New Music USA.
"His most visionary and ambitious stage work to date," said the Guardian. "Adams's conducting, second to none in his own music, had tremendous conviction and unique authority, with every facet of the score's terrible beauty laid bare … thrilling playing and choral singing … Gerald Finley conveyed Oppenheimer's moral agony with singing of great refinement and subtlety."
"A magnificent accomplishment that easily takes its place alongside the other Adams-Sellars triumphs," exclaimed the Los Angeles Times. "It contains music of unearthly splendor … gorgeous lushness and … rich expressivity."
Doctor Atomic concerns the final hours leading up to the first atomic bomb explosion at the Alamagordo test site in New Mexico in July 1945. The focal characters are the physicist and Manhattan Project director, Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer; his wife Kitty; Edward Teller; and General Leslie Groves, US Army commander of the project.
Sellars's libretto draws on original source material, including personal memoirs, recorded interviews, technical manuals of nuclear physics, declassified government documents, and the poetry of Muriel Rukeyser, an American poet and contemporary of Oppenheimer.
John Adams's works, spanning more than four decades, have entered the repertoire and are among the most performed of all contemporary classical music, among them Harmonielehre, Shaker Loops, Chamber Symphony, Doctor Atomic Symphony, Short Ride in a Fast Machine, and his Violin Concerto. His stage works, all in collaboration with director Peter Sellars, include Nixon in China (1987), The Death of Klinghoffer (1991), El Niño (2000), Doctor Atomic (2005), A Flowering Tree (2006), and the Passion oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary (2012). In November 2017, Adams's new opera Girls of the Golden West, set during the 1850s California Gold Rush, received its world premiere at San Francisco Opera. The opera's libretto, assembled by Sellars, includes original Gold Rush song lyrics, letters, journal entries, and personal memoirs from the era. Doctor Atomic is Nonesuch's thirty-first recording of the works of John Adams, beginning with Harmonielehre in 1986; the label has released forty-seven first recordings of Adams pieces.
Music by John Adams
Libretto by Peter Sellars drawn from original sources
Produced by Friedemann Engelbrecht
Recorded by René Möller April 18–23, 2017, at BBC Maida Vale Studios, London
and by the BBC April 24–25, 2017, at the Barbican Centre, London
BBC Producer: Ann McKay
BBC Recording Engineer: Neil Pemberton
BBC Assistant Engineers: Adele Conlin, Joe Yon, Drew Leckie
BBC Radio Outside Broadcasts Engineers: Stephen Bridges, Chris Banner
Edited by Wolfgang Schiefermair and René Möller at Teldex Studio, Berlin
Mixed and mastered by René Möller at Teldex Studio
Sound Design: Mark Grey
Design: John Heiden for Smog Design, Inc.
Vintage photographs courtesy of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (lanl.gov) and the National Archives
Map of Hiroshima Wan, Japan, courtesy of David Rumsey Map Collection (davidrumsey.com)
Performance photographs by Mark Allan courtesy of the BBC
Executive Producer: Robert Hurwitz
Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer (Oppie): Gerald Finley
Edward Teller: Brindley Sherratt
Robert Wilson: Andrew Staples
Kitty Oppenheimer: Julia Bullock
Pasqualita: Jennifer Johnston
General Leslie Groves: Aubrey Allicock
Frank Hubbard: Marcus Farnsworth
Captain James Nolan: Samuel Sakker
BBC Symphony Orchestra
John Adams, conductor
First Violin: Maya Iwabuchi, guest leader
Jeremy Martin, Frances Dewar, Morane Cohen-Lamberger, Charles Renwick, Regan Crowley, Jenny King, Colin Huber, Shirley Turner, Anna Smith, Ni Do, Benjamin Roskams, Molly Cockburn, Gabrielle Painter, Laura Dixon
Second Violin: Daniel Meyer, Lucica Trita, Hania Gmitruk, Vanessa Hughes, Philippa Ballard, Danny Fajardo, Lucy Curnow, Rachel Samuel, Tammy Se, Non Peters, Eleanor Bartlett, Ruth Funnell, Raja Halder, Maya Bickel
Viola: Norbert Blume, Philip Hall, Audrey Henning, Natalie Taylor, Michael Leaver, Carolyn Scott, Mary Whittle, Peter Mallinson, Matthias Wiesner, Zoe Matthews, Daisy Spiers, Bryony Mycroft
Cello: Susan Monks, Tamsy Kaner, Marie Strom, Mark Sheridan, Clare Hinton, Sarah Hedley Miller, Michael Atkinson, Augusta Harris, Colin Alexander, Anna Beryl
Double Bass: Nicholas Bayley, Richard Alsop, Michael Clarke, Marian Gulbicki, Beverley Jones, Catherine Elliott, Lucy Hare, Benjamin Russell
Flute: Daniel Pailthorpe, Tomoka Mukai
Piccolo: Kathleen Stevenson
Oboe: Timothy Rundle, Imogen Smith
Cor Anglais: Alison Teale
Clarinet: James Burke, Peter Davis
Bass Clarinet: Steve Morris
Bassoon: Julie Price, Susan Frankel
Contrabassoon: Steven Magee
Horns: Nicholas Korth, Michael Murray, Andrew Antcliff, Nicholas Hougham, Alexei Watkins
Trumpet: Gareth Bimson, Martin Hurrell, Joseph Atkins
Trombone: Helen Vollam, Dan Jenkins
Bass Trombone: Robert O’Neill
Tuba: Sam Elliott
Timpani: Christopher Hind
Percussion: David Hockings, Fiona Ritchie, Joseph Cooper, Richard Cartlidge, Elsa Bradley
Harp: Louise Martin
Celeste: Elizabeth Burley
Matthew Morley, chorus master
Soprano: Nina Bennet, Rachel Chapman, Lucinda Cox, Alice Gribbin, Micaela Haslam, Eloise Irving, Rebecca Lea, Elizabeth Poole, Emma Tring
Alto: Cathy Bell, Morag Boyle, Margaret Cameron, Nancy Cole, Ciara Hendrick, Sian Menna, Rosie Middleton, Cherith Millburn-Fryer, Eleanor Minney, Katie Schofield
Tenor: Daniel Auchincloss, Robert Carlin, Jon English, Stephen Jeffes, Tom Kelly, Andrew Mackenzie-Wicks, Andrew Murgatroyd, Alastair Putt, Tom Raskin, Julian Stocker
Bass: James Birchall, Francis Brett, Charles Gibbs, Jamie W Hall, Jimmy Holliday, Gavin Horsley, David Le Prevost, Thomas Oldham, Andrew Rupp, Philip Tebb