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.

8 thoughts on “Dr. Atomic as Opera or Symphony?”
  1. “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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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