So Lisa and I finally went to see the John Adam’s Opera “Dr. Atomic” on Saturday, the last night of it’s run. It was a very long day for me (woke up as usual at 5:45am to catch the BART and ACTransit for two hours of tai-chi class in the morning, then had a private lesson at noon with Lenzie) so I was pretty exhausted by the time we got to the opera. For me however, I didn’t really find myself very engaged with the piece, at least, nothing was there that got me so interested that prevented me from falling asleep for parts of the opera.
The opera to me seemed as a whole very focused on the text and the idea of the story overshadowed much of the rest. John Adams in his pre-concert talk mentioned a story of two people who had come up to him and saying they had seen the opera and that they were very for and against the use of “the bomb”, respectively. All of the conversations I had heard around me from people who were very into the opera also seemed to revolve around the idea of the story, but I didn’t hear much in regards to the other aspects of the opera.
I found the orchestral music to be very much just in the background and found myself not very engaged with it, and I felt somehow that it didn’t contribute so much to the telling of the story. The vocal music was inconsistent it seemed, and by that I mean that it didn’t seem to fit into the music, the character or logic of it. I thought the vocal lines weren’t very inspired, missing something in it’s writing, a sense of fire or passion (something I am finding less and less in new music). That sense of fire or passion I’m talking about isn’t necessarily something that is in music as a romantic era gesture, but rather, just a sense of the music having something in it very necessary to be written and heard. (This is a very hard thing for me to describe, so I’ll leave it at that for now.)
So I left the opera feeling a bit underwhelmed I guess. The pre-concert talk I think set my expectations much higher than what I ended up getting up out of it. The story was very interesting but it would have been regardless of if it was an opera or not. I think it was the first time I went to the SF Opera and left not having a very positive experience; perhaps someday in the future I’ll find that I was simply just too tired that evening to find more in the opera, but I guess I’ll have to wait for some time to find out.