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20 Oct 2011

Doctor Atomic by John Adams comes to the Finnish National Opera

Nordic premiere for opera about nuclear scientists

The first premiere of the 2011-2012 season at the Finnish National Opera will be Doctor Atomic, an opera by John Adams focusing on the enduringly topical story of the first atomic bomb test in July 1945, with nuclear physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer as its central character. The opera is based on the thoughts and fears of Oppenheimer and his colleagues in the run-up to this world-changing event.

The responsibility of the scientists in general and Oppenheimer in particular has been a matter of debate ever since the first atomic bomb used in combat, a uranium bomb dubbed 'Little Boy' by the American military, killed 75,000 people in Hiroshima only a few weeks after the first successful test. Oppenheimer came across as a Faust figure who had sold his soul to the devil, and it was as such that he was suggested to John Adams as the subject for an opera. Adams was immediately interested, although he did not want to cast the story as a variation on Faust. The libretto was compiled by Peter Sellars from memoirs, contemporary interviews and documents. Poems and sacred Hindu texts are also included.

Doctor Atomic was premiered in San Francisco in 2005 and is Adams's most extensive opera to date. It has since been performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and in Chicago, Amsterdam and London. The production now brought to the FNO was premiered in Saarbrücken, and its premiere at the FNO on 4 November 2011 will also be the opera's first performance in the Nordic countries.

The concept for the Saarbrücken production was created by director Immo Karaman and choreographer Fabian Posca. The production was nominated for the distinguished Der Faust theatre prize in Germany in 2010. The sets are by Johann Jörg, the costumes by Nicola Reichert, and the lighting by Immo Karaman and Johann Jörg. The FNO performances will be conducted by Stuart Stratford.

The role of Oppenheimer will be taken alternately by Lee Poulis and Jaakko Kortekangas, with Jessica Rivera / Sabina Čvilak as Kitty Oppenheimer, Mika Kares / Rolf Broman as physicist Edward Teller and
Per-Håkan Precht as physicist Robert R. Wilson.

The FNO has previously staged two of John Adams's operas: the hugely successful production of Nixon in China was premiered in 1990 and The Death of Klinghoffer, highlighting the troubles in the Middle East, was premiered in 2001.

View production information