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Since its world première in October 2005 in San Francisco, the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima, Adams had revised the work, adding some twenty minutes to the length and intensifying the role of Kitty, Oppenheimer's wife. Yet it appears that editing is needed, particularly of some long stretches of tedious non confluence of dialogue and music. Nevertheless, overall Adams has a strong sense of dramatic pacing, so that contrasts are always effective, notably the storm scenes in Act II, depicted with scalic woodwind lightning flashes over long pulsating brass chords. The big issue, the moral responsibility of the scientist, is presented in Act I, where there is a conflict between 'Oppie', superbly sung by Gerald Finley, who does not want to interfere with politics and Robert Wilson (Thomas Glenn), the scientist who wants to resist the political machine.

Gerald Finley as J Robert Oppenheimer and Thomas Glenn as Robert Wilson. Photo © 2007 Marco Borggreve
Gerald Finley as J Robert Oppenheimer and Thomas Glenn as Robert Wilson. Photo © 2007 Marco Borggreve

Both Edward Teller (Richard Paul Fink) and General Leslie Groves (Eric Owens) also have major roles. The duet between Oppenheimer and Teller in Act I takes place amidst the swirling business of the Manhattan Project, depicted with an opulent corps de ballet suggestive of molecular organisation.

Edward Teller (Richard Paul Fink), J Robert Oppenheimer (Gerald Finley), Robert Wilson (Thomas Glenn), dancers and the Netherlands Opera Choir. Photo © 2007 Marco Borggreve
Edward Teller (Richard Paul Fink), J Robert Oppenheimer (Gerald Finley), Robert Wilson (Thomas Glenn), dancers and the Netherlands Opera Choir. Photo © 2007 Marco Borggreve

 

J Robert Oppenheimer (Gerald Finley) and Edward Teller (Richard Paul Fink). Photo © 2007 Marco Borggreve
J Robert Oppenheimer (Gerald Finley) and Edward Teller (Richard Paul Fink). Photo © 2007 Marco Borggreve

General Grove's role is mainly to bring pressure to complete the project which generates tension, notably in a duet with Chief Metereologist Frank Hubbard, sung by James Maddalena, well known as the title role of Nixon in China. The general's 'chocolate aria' attempted to offer light relief yet seemed superfluous in the context.

Jack Hubbard (James Maddalena) and General Leslie Groves (Eric Owens). Photo © 2007 Marco Borggreve
Jack Hubbard (James Maddalena) and General Leslie Groves (Eric Owens). Photo © 2007 Marco Borggreve

 

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Copyright © 18 July 2007 Malcolm Miller, London UK

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