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John Adams Writes an Opera for the Atomic Age

The eagerly anticipated third opera from John Adams, Doctor Atomic, premiered Oct. 1 at the San Francisco Opera. Based on Richard Rhodes' book The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Adams' work focuses on physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and the project he led to create -- and detonate -- the first atomic bomb.

Adams, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for his composition On the Transmigration of Souls, wrote Doctor Atomic with his longtime collaborator and librettist, Peter Sellars. Sellars drew from original source material, including personal memoirs, technical manuals of nuclear physics and declassified government documents.

Adams discusses Doctor Atomic and Alex Ross of The New Yorker offers a critical perspective.

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Fred Child
Fred Child is a commentator for NPR and the host of American Public Media's Performance Today.