Above: Doctor Atomic. Photograph Courtesy Santa Fe Opera.

One of the most dramatic events in New Mexico history meets one of the state’s most dramatic backdrops on July 14 when the Santa Fe Opera debuts Doctor Atomic, just one of five rotating works by the internationally regarded company during its June 29–August 25 season. Doctor Atomic reunites composer John Adams with librettist and director Peter Sellars and tells the story of the Manhattan Project, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and the construction of the world’s first atomic bomb.

From their seats, operagoers will see the sun set above Los Alamos, in the Jémez Mountains, as “Oppie,” Leslie Groves, Edward Teller, and others perform their way toward a century-changing discovery. Sellars is working with local Pueblo people to ensure their voices aren’t lost in the arias, and the New Mexico History Museum, in Santa Fe, hosts a symposium, July 13–14, exploring some of the people and places affected by the bomb. Symposium tickets start at $60; register at nmmag.us/atomicopera.

The serious tone doesn’t define the season, which, says spokesman Daniel Zillman, has “a little something for everyone.” There’s the light comedy of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, the drama of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, the wit of Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, and a Rossini romp, The Italian Girl in Algiers.

One of the best outdoor opera venues in the nation, the Santa Fe Opera draws visitors from around the world. Pre-show dinners with explanatory talks are available, but many audience members prefer to tailgate in haute style (505-986-5900, santafeopera.org).

Story Sidebar

Learn more about Doctor Atomic on the NMPBS’ ¡Colores! program.