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John Adams’s opera stars Gerald Finley as “Father of the A-Bomb.”

GREAT PERFORMANCES AT THE MET launches its third season on PBS with the Metropolitan Opera premiere of Doctor Atomic, John Adams’ powerful portrait of the physicist presiding over the creation of the atom bomb, Monday, December 29 at 9 p.m. ET (check local listings). Presented by Thirteen/WNET New York in high definition and 5.1 digital surround sound, the 2005 work stars Canadian baritone Gerald Finley as the Faustian J. Robert Oppenheimer, “Father of the A-Bomb.” Alan Gilbert conducts.

UPDATE: Read an interview conducted by with John Adams.

“An ambitious, haunting work,” proclaimed The New York Times of Penny Woolcock’s cinematic new production, with special praise for Finley (“vocally visceral and emotionally nuanced”) and Gilbert. “The performance he draws from the Met Orchestra and Chorus is a revelation. This score continues to impress as Mr. Adams’ most complex and masterly music.”

The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer (On the Transmigration of Souls) often tackles contemporary and controversial subjects, such as his first opera, 1987’s Nixon in China. The second, The Death of Klinghoffer, followed in 1991, with Doctor Atomic having its world premiere at San Francisco Opera 14 years later. This production marks his Met debut.

Set in New Mexico in the summer of 1945, as scientists, led by Oppenheimer, and the military prepare to test the first nuclear bomb, the work neatly limns events that will radically change the course of history. “Adams has created a score filled with color, syncopation and lush interludes,” wrote Associated Press.

Doctor Atomic, sung in English to Peter Sellars’ libretto, is directed for television by Gary Halvorson and hosted by acclaimed Met mezzo Susan Graham. Julian Crouch designed the sets; Catherine Zuber the costumes; Brian MacDevitt the lighting. Andrew Dawson is choreographer. The production was transmitted as part of The Met: Live in HD series on November 8, 2008 and was recorded for this telecast.

Bonus material includes a feature on J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Also in the large cast are mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke as Oppenheimer’s wife, Kitty; bass-baritone Richard Paul Fink (Edward Teller); bass-baritone Eric Owens (General Leslie Groves); tenor Thomas Glenn (Robert Wilson); and contralto Meredith Arwady (Pasqualita).

The Met’s new production of Doctor Atomic was underwritten through a generous grant from Agnes Varis and Karl Leichtman. Funding for the GREAT PERFORMANCES telecast of Doctor Atomic is being provided by The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

GREAT PERFORMANCES is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public television viewers, and PBS. Corporate support for GREAT PERFORMANCES AT THE MET is provided by Toll Brothers.



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