Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Robert Oppenheimer

Was I too rough with Doctor Atomic? I don't think so.

I quoted Gertrude Stein on the atomic bomb because I agree with her perspective. Politically the bomb is a huge issue, but personally it is not interesting.

For Robert Oppenheimer to work as Faust the opera has to be about him. The Faust moment for him came when he agreed to head the Manhattan Project, an event not covered in the opera at all. Over the course of his employment on the project, did he doubt its wisdom or his own role in it? He had US security clearance and would have found himself in trouble if he expressed a lot of reservations. A librettist would need to invent this.

If Robert Oppenheimer experienced no inner conflict around the work he was doing, then he is a poor choice for an opera. A big bomb hanging in the air is not a substitute. This Faust loses his soul and is damned forever.

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