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Dr. Atomic as Opera or Symphony?

Many people are still talking about the New York production of John Adams’ latest opera, Dr. Atomic. But Adams wasn’t through with the material after its stage presentation.

Nonesuch recently released a symphonic version of music from Dr. Atomic; Dr. Atomic Symphony is paired with Guide to Strange Places on the CD.

There’s also a DVD release of the opera, in its Netherlands production, available on Opus Arte.

Sequenza 21 readers: How do you prefer Dr. Atomic, in its operatic or symphonic incarnation? The comments section is open for feedback.


Comment from Jerry Bowles
Time: January 17, 2010, 9:08 pm

Actually, neither is as good as Son of Chamber Symphony.

Comment from Christian
Time: January 18, 2010, 1:49 am

Yes, I’ve asked Westminster to order Son of Chamber Symphony for the library. We’re looking at it in the grad minimalism course this summer.

Comment from Jay C. Batzner
Time: January 18, 2010, 10:19 am

I’m more of a fan of the symphony than the opera but I don’t find either piece rather appealing. I think Guide to Strange Places is the real reason to own that CD. It is a far superior piece to my ears.

Comment from Jerry Bowles
Time: January 18, 2010, 10:45 am

Did I mention that you can listen to Son of Chamber Symphony free by clicking on the red Carnegie Hall new music logo at the top of the left sidebar? Some other good stuff there too, including Little Match Girl Passion.

Comment from Eric L
Time: January 18, 2010, 6:40 pm

Still prefer the first Chamber Symphony over the sequel… =)

Comment from Christian
Time: January 19, 2010, 12:54 pm

I think the opera is the more organic vehicle for the Dr. Atomic music. That said, the symphony in no way strikes me as being cobbled together. It’s a very nice refashioning of the opera’s music. As Jay mentions, the companion piece, Guide to Strange Places, makes a bid to upstage the symphony. It’s one of Adams’ finest recent works.

Just got the new Nixon in China recording on Naxos. Will be writing about that soon as well.

Comment from Jon Manton
Time: January 25, 2010, 7:32 pm

I have seen both the Symphony and the Opera live and would have to pick the opera everytime! The symphony strikes me as poor representation of some of the simply superb music in the opera which in my opinon is some of the best Adams has written to date.

Comment from Henry Holland
Time: January 26, 2010, 5:05 pm

“How do you prefer Dr. Atomic”

As an idea that never should have advanced beyond the talking stage. That way, there wouldn’t be one of the worst librettos in memory, a hilariously inept staging by Peter Sellars (I went to the production at SFO) and Adams tired music, which tried to incorporate major dissonance in to his basic style and only ended up sounding like the most cliched product of Darmstadt ca. 1955.