Monday, October 03, 2005

Animating American Opera (tm)

" [John] Adams' score [to Doctor Atomic] moves with the omnivorous assurance of an artist who now seems to feel that he has every imaginable musical resource at his disposal. The work is punctuated by sharply conceived electronic soundscapes -- the piece opens with a brief dispatch from the interior of one of Ernest Lawrence's cyclotrons -- and the range of mood and allusion is staggering."

Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

"Alas, the musical performance was troubled by balance problems, which were not helped by the use of amplification. Electronic elements have long been part of the Adams style. Since the large orchestra was electronically enhanced, the solo singers had to wear wireless microphones. Introducing amplification into opera is Mr. Adams's prerogative. But if you are going to abandon 400 years of tradition and amplify singers to get the balances right, then get the balances right."

Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

"This, though, is just the beginning for "Doctor Atomic." San Francisco Opera has scheduled 10 performances over the work's three-week run. Next season it travels to Chicago and Amsterdam. The Metropolitan Opera [and the English National Opera] is rumored to be planning a production. Others will inevitably follow. Performers will eventually rise to the occasion."

Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times

"One senses that Adams has begun to absorb the spectrum of musical history, the way past composers absorbed theory, counterpoint and harmony, and, by force of will, made it distinctly his."

Tim Page, Washington Post


I recall that the performance of John Adams's "El Nino", which I heard at the Philharmonie in Berlin, was plagued by amplification problems. This was unfortunate since I was present when Mr Adams attended a full hour-long sound check of the instrumental amplification system for the work.

If the MET Opera does in fact mount the opera, it will be an important development, in my opinion, for American culture. Now, will the San Francisco, Chicago, or possibly MET productions be recorded for PBS broadcast?

M. Stanley-Livingstone and Ernest Lawrence with Magnet and 27" Cyclotron installed on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley.


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