Sunday, October 02, 2005


In the soon to be infamous article in this week's New Yorker, Mr. Alex Ross writes:
Oppenheimer liked to float above the rest of humanity, not just intellectually but geographically. If you go to see the places where he lived, you notice that he made a habit of perching like an eagle on the rim of the world. When he lived in Berkeley, he took a house high in the hills; it had the address No. 1, Eagle Hill. In New Mexico, he had a cabin on Grass Mountain, a surreally lush meadow at nearly ten thousand feet.
And so I couldn't help wondering: if Oppenheimer had attended the opera--his opera--tonight, would he have sat way, way up in the balcony with the likes of moi? Seat J127?

Other first impressions, fleetingly: I'm still reconciling my initial reaction to the corps of dancers. (I could do without all the "interpretive dance" -- and I'm a dancerly sort of person!) I prefer my Adams/Sellars neat, not on the rocks of Jerome Robbins, thank you. That said, the miming (yes, real authentic miming!) in the first scene is sweet, like wonderful little bon-bons. The orchestration--wow--what a marvelous palette of contrasts and unusual combinations; it prickles delicately and seethes with intensity and doesn't shy away from an occasional tonal center. (!) The SFOpera Orchestra delivered the score with precision, clarity, and effusive vigor--really, they blew my mind--to the point where my ear ... um, actually lost the voices a majority of the time. Balance is an issue. Should one's ear strain to hear the vocal line at the opera, I ask? Hmmph, I think not. Oppenheimer's aria, "Batter my heart, three person'd God" is one for the ages. (John Donne--you break my heart.) I shall go again just to hear the last five minutes of the first act. And young Thomas Glenn as Robert Wilson completely stole the entire show. At least for me. (Did anyone by chance get his number?)


It's interesting that you single out Thomas Glenn for praise since he was only put into the show in the last week when the originally cast tenor, Tom Randle, was let go. Glenn is an Adler fellow (student singer, in other words) from Canada who also sang as the Offstage Voice in "Billy Budd" last year and made a few casting saves in last year's "Flying Dutchman." He's great.

Part of the reason he stood out was because "Doctor Atomic" is so baritone/bass heavy (you'd think it was "Simon Boccanegra").

Glad you enjoyed the piece. And yes, the Lucinda Childs choreography was ridiculous, but the orchestra and chorus were AWESOME.

By Blogger sfmike, at 12:03 PM  

No solo sopranos. Miking? Apparently yes, according to an interview in Sept. with Adams and comments from Janos Gereben and Anthony Tommassini.

That comparison to "Boccanegra" is dead on, though I have to also say that I thought Glenn excellent - impetuous and idealistic.

The choreography was so much better than the dreck usually seen at the Opera that I was overjoyed with it, appropriate or not. %^)

--Lisa Hirsch

By Blogger Heather, at 8:10 AM  

Just wondering--were the singers amplified at all? In productions of "Nixon," the singers usually wear body microphones.


By Blogger Heather, at 8:10 AM  

And unless I'm mistaken, there aren't any sopranos in this either. Is that right?

(Stuck in Baltimore, obsessed with this new opera ...)

--Andrea B.

By Blogger Heather, at 8:11 AM  

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