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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

'Wonders' of physics, morality, opera

Author: janos451 from San Francisco
26 April 2007

Six decades ago, a uniquely brilliant man with an anguished sense of morality led the Manhattan project to develop the first nuclear weapon. J. Robert Oppenheimer named the final, crucial test in Alamagordo "Trinity," inspired by John Donne's haunted, metaphysical poems.

Two years ago, on the stage of the War Memorial Opera House, bass-baritone Gerald Finley - backlit downstage, his face in the dark - seemed doubled over, singing the role of Oppenheimer in John Adams' "Doctor Atomic."

"Batter my heart, three-person'd God..." he sang the aria set on Donne's stark, powerful poem. With dark, convulsive ecstasy in the grip of the Trinity's conflicting forces, the singer embraced the poet's terrifying vision, "to break, blow, burn, and make me new." As Oppenheimer, about to unleash unpredictable - possibly cataclysmic - energy, Finley moved spasmodically to the overpowering rhythms of Adams' music, his clear, warm, powerful and seductive voice soaring through the house:

"Take me to you, imprison me, for I, Except you enthrall me, never shall be free, Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me."

And now, in 2007, it all comes together in Jon Else's "Wonders Are Many," shown at the San Francisco Film Festival: Oppenheimer, Trinity, Adams' opera, Pamela Rosenberg's most ambitious and successful project before leaving as general director of the commissioning San Francisco Opera, dramaturg/stage director Peter Sellars - alternatively urbane, intellectual, smart as a whip, and screaming obscenities at the befuddled chorus after a long day of rehearsal - and a large cast of characters.

Ideas proliferate even more here, from the mechanics of fusion, the inner structure of plutonium, the nature of individual responsibility for the actions of one's government, the composer's and the director's creative process... on and on.

As "Doctor Atomic" was a mostly superb marriage of music, text, production, melding elements of history, philosophy, politics, poetry, mass- and individual psychology, fear, and hope, Else's magnificent construction of the film more than keeps up with - and eventually illuminates - the complexities, the depth of both the original Trinity story and the production of a great contemporary opera it inspired.

"Wonders Are Many" is so good that it will grab and hold even those for whom nuclear physics and opera are of no special interest. The intellect, humanity, creativity and excitement of it all should appeal to everyone.

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Loved IT

Author: marketmarkj from United States
22 January 2007

It is hard to believe that this Opera, Dr. Atomic, was actually made. Sometimes during the film I thought it was a joke.

The film making is great and the converging timelines done very well. Just fascinating.

The director of the Opera Peter Selars is a fantastic character and when I say character that is what I mean. Very over the top and expressive - loved him - comic relief too.

The opera composer was a real pro and the actors in Dr. Atomic were very talented the opera sections of the file got a little tedious at time, probably because I don't enjoy ophra. Amazing history footage about Oppenheimer (created the Atomic Bomb), some of it never seen and just recently declassified.

This is a great movie if you live history or opera or both.

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