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A Physics Opera on TV tonight (USA)

  1. Dec 29, 2008 #1

    jtbell

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    A "Physics Opera" on TV tonight (USA)

    Tonight, PBS stations will broadcast a performance of John Adams's recent opera "Doctor Atomic," about J. Robert Oppenheimer and the first atomic bomb test in 1945. It was recorded in HD at the Metropolitan Opera in New York this past fall.

    The schedule may vary between stations. My PBS station will show it twice tonight on their HD channel, at 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.

    PBS showed a documentary about the opera a couple of weeks ago, and now here's the opera itself. When it premiered a few years ago, Science magazine published what was probably its first (and maybe only) opera review ever!
     
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  3. Dec 29, 2008 #2

    Ivan Seeking

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    Re: A "Physics Opera" on TV tonight (USA)

    On a related note, a number of years ago I went and saw Arcadia, which is a math and physics oriented play. It was fun.

    Thanks for the heads-up. I had never heard of this.
     
  4. Dec 30, 2008 #3

    jtbell

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    Re: A "Physics Opera" on TV tonight (USA)

    I think many opera fans who are used to the traditional Italian and German repertoire (Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, Strauss, Wagner, etc.) would be put off by the music. It's not aggressively "modern" in the atonal screeches and bleeps and bloops style that many composers favored after World War II, but it's not in the traditional melodic Romantic or Classical style, either. And the text isn't exactly lyrical, being almost completely cut-n-pasted from snippets of contemporary documents:

    Imagine this sung by a chorus of people in military uniforms and 1940s style office wear. And then Edward Teller has the first solo, sitting at a desk with plans on it, surrounded by other scientists in suits.

    It's long, almost three hours, but I actually stayed awake through the whole thing, and enjoyed it after I got used to the style and atmosphere. The staging, sets, lighting and camera work are effective. The subtitles help a lot. The actual explosion at the end is a bit anticlimactic (just a flash of light behind the stage backdrop), but then, how could you hope to depict a nuclear explosion realistically on stage without resorting to film of an actual explosion?

    "Doctor Atomic" is already available on DVD, from a different production last year in Amsterdam. That video is supposed to come out in HD on Blu-ray this spring. So I'll be surprised if tonight's production appears on disc also. At least I have my recording of the broadcast (17 GB of it).
     
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