Doctor Atomic is set on the final days before the first test of the atomic bomb; July 15 and 16, 1945. With the final few adjustments taking place the ‘Gadget’ is ready to test. The only thing holding them back are the intense electrical storms over the test site, which threaten to put the test on hold for days.
The emotional toll that a project like this has on the people involved is incomprehensible. Adams’s opera focuses on the experiences of individuals in the final hours and moments before this event, and gives Robert Oppenheimer and his wife, Kitty, Edward Teller and Robert Wilson, General Groves and Captain Nolan, a chance to air their concerns. Can they be held responsible for the destruction that this weapon will cause, when at any point they could have refused to build it? Will a device this powerful simply set the atmosphere alight, and destroy the earth? Or, will it simply be a dud?
A break in the weather, and the test will go ahead with only minimal delays. The countdown begins, and all they can do now is wait.
Doctor Atomic guide sections