Doctor Atomic

I saw John Adams's Doctor Atomic at the Metropolitan Opera last night, from row F in Family Circle. I could almost reach up and touch the gilt ceiling, but the music glides around that theater, and there's not a bad seat in the house.

(I love the moment just before the opera starts when the lights are dimmed and the chandeliers raised in unison. They look like atomic snowflakes).

The pacing is what got me. Most of the the opera oscillates between expressions of misgivings about the bomb's potential to change and devastate humanity and desire to achieve scientific and military aims.

(And the lighting spectacularly leads your eyes along the hills of Los Alamos, through the offices and bedrooms and lives of the scientists working there. And the sound design transports you and expands the stage and encompasses you. And the set design mesmerizes you with suspended hunks of charred wood (inspired by Cornelia Parker sculptures, I read) and a hulking sci-fi bomb dangling like a disco ball).

But after all the oscillations, there is a conclusion, a detonation. And, like the ensemble cast, I wanted to put on sunglasses, light a cigarette, sit back and watch. But I was hit, rocked by the real power of the thing, unimaginable, simultaneously massive and individual.