Adams: Doctor Atomic Symphony
From the music in the opera Doctor Atomic (2005), Adams compiled a half-hour long symphony after a couple of years, which has become a concentrate of the opera. It is about scientist Robert Oppenheimer’s moral dilemmas and desperation when creating the first atomic bomb. Here, history mixes with politics, science and ethics in a way that can illuminate many other complex changes in society. The symphony is held in a sounding unity, but three parts can be distinguished, and parallels have been drawn with Sibelius’s Seventh Symphony, which had a great influence on Adams’ musical thinking, even if the tonal language is completely different. There is also influence here from both Purcell and Varèse. Those who know the opera can also recognize the different parts of the symphony, the panic that arose in the second act when an electrical storm hit the test area a few hours before the detonation, or General Leslie Groves symbolized by the alcohol-like trombones, or the ritual dances that the local indigenous people perform.