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John Adams’ and Peter Sellars’ Doctor Atomic Opens July 14


A new production of Doctor Atomic by Peter Sellars premieres in Santa Fe

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Doctor Atomic promotion image

July 14, 18, 27 at 8:30 pm; August 2, 7, 16 at 8:00 pm

Sung in English with Opera Titles in English and Spanish

A new Santa Fe Opera production

A company premiere

Premiered in 2005 at San Francisco Opera

Production Underwriting support generously provided by Gene & Jean Stark and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Music by John Adams

Words by Peter Sellars drawn from original sources

Santa Fe, NM – First performed in 2005, Doctor Atomic reunited composer John Adams with librettist and stage director Peter Sellars, whose earlier collaborations include Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer. This new production, staged by Sellars, also marks the first John Adams work to be performed by the company.

Doctor Atomic takes place in Los Alamos during the summer of 1945, leading up to the detonation of the first atomic bomb at the Trinity Site outside Alamogordo. The text is a mosaic drawn from original sources, including personal memoirs, technical manuals, declassified government documents, poetry by Baudelaire and Muriel Rukeyser, the Holy Sonnets of John Donne, Songs of the Tewa (as translated by Herbert Joseph Spinden), the Hindu Bhagavad Gita. John Adams describes his inspiration for the score as “the science-fiction movie music of the 1950s, which I watched as a little kid on black and white television. I remember how many started with some nuclear test in the desert…and the kind of fear that I felt growing up in the 1950s and 60s.”

For the first time in their histories, the Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, and Tesuque Pueblos will come together to create an offering of a Corn Dance as a statement and gesture of healing after 70 years of atomic history in New Mexico. These dances are sacred. They are prayers. No photography or video recording will be permitted.

The gift offering will take two forms – one part is a ceremony taking place 35 minutes before the performance, lasting approximately 20 minutes, and the other part is a gifting of the sacred Corn Dance during Act II of Doctor Atomic.

The diplomatic and spiritual meanings of this event are powerful. This event will launch an enhanced relationship between The Santa Fe Opera and local communities.

“This event signals a new era for the Pueblo Opera Program of The Santa Fe Opera, which has 45 years of path-breaking history,” said General Director Charles MacKay. “The cross-generational, educational, and community engagement dimensions of this step are enormous in the delicate social, political, and spiritual worlds of rural New Mexico.”

The Pueblo Indians will be joined on stage by members of the Downwinder communities of New Mexico – residents who live downwind of atomic test sites and have developed multiple and complex cancers since the nuclear installations and tests.

We will also have participation and representation of workers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory – making these performances of Doctor Atomic an extraordinary occasion to present a deep history of the atomic age, speaking to the world from New Mexico, in the words and with the bodies of the communities most affected by this history.

Conductor: Matthew Aucoin*

Director: Peter Sellars

Scenic Design: David Gropman*

Associate Scenic: Design Simon Schabert*

Costume Design: Gabriel Berry

Lighting Design: James F. Ingalls

Sound Design: Mark Grey and Daniel Gower

Choreography: Emily Johnson*

Chorus Master: Susanne Sheston

Robert Oppenheimer: Ryan McKinny, baritone

Kitty Oppenheimer: Julia Bullock*, soprano

Robert Wilson: Benjamin Bliss, tenor

Pasqualita: Meredith Arwady, contralto

Edward Teller: Andrew Harris*+, bass

General Groves:  Daniel Okulitch, baritone

Frank Hubbard:  Tim Mix, baritone

*debut, +former Santa Fe Opera Apprentice

Participation of the Northern New Mexico Pueblo Dancers is made possible with the cooperation of the American Guild of Musical Artists.

Additional Events Surrounding Doctor Atomic

Atomic Conversations

Atomic Conversations will add new dimensions to the usual Prelude Talks on performance nights of Doctor Atomic and are complimentary to ticket holders and held in Stieren Orchestra Hall twice before each performance, the first, two hours before the performance, and the second, one hour before. The conversations will be moderated by the librettist and director of Doctor Atomic, Peter Sellars. Members of San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, and Tesuque Pueblos, Downwinders, and former and current Los Alamos National Laboratory employees will take part in these conversations.

Tech and the West 2018

Please see separate news release for further information.

The mission of The Santa Fe Opera is to advance the operatic art form by presenting ensemble performances of the highest quality in a unique setting with a varied repertory of new, rarely performed, and standard works; to ensure the excellence of opera’s future through apprentice programs for singers, technicians, and arts administrators; and to foster and enrich an understanding and appreciation of opera among a diverse public.