If you saw the premiere of Doctor Atomic, don't assume that what it was then is what it is now.
I have no time to blog these days, but I encourage you to take the time to read some of the wonderful comments here. As Mme C- wrote to me, "There is really nothing more successful than a new work that gets people talking, thinking and caring about it." And the wide variation in points of view is perhaps the best part.
In the second part of this post are my responses to the comments.
Lisa, I'll be very interested to hear your reaction to tonight's (revised) ending. (I spotted you twice, but was engaged at both moments with my companion, the jetsetting Mlle C-.)
Jessica, I kept coming back to your comment about "God=bomb or God=atom not [being] a wholly implausible reading" during Batter My Heart tonight. Thanks for that perspective. My main issue with the staging of Batter My Heart is the exact repetition of movement when the text is reiterated. The first time is OK; it's the second time that makes me say, come on, those movements aren't so profound that I need an encore. I found the dancers much more interesting on the second go-around, and I think this ties into your observation that "it often seemed like TOO MUCH." The piece is, as Alex has noted, awfully complex (in the best possible way) and is perhaps too much for us to digest in one sitting. But I think this is in fact one of the great wonders of the piece: I keep hearing over and over that people who have gone once both want and need to see and hear it again.
Russell, if you see the production again, I think you will see a lot of the refinement you projected. Balance issues were greatly improved tonight, especially in the Kitty/Oppie bedroom scene. I still think "Am I in your light?" is a yowza piece, and it couldn't have been set up any better. Do try to hear it again, because that's some crazy good writing, as far as I'm concerned.
Mike, I agree, the opening has really come together. The decibel level seemed appropriate tonight; the first night it was too polite in comparison, too museum-like. I too felt the first scene works better dramatically now. That was maybe the biggest check in the meh column on opening night. As for Gen. Groves's diet scene, I think the bad rap is a little unfair. I like having a tension release valve at that point, after an hour or so of relentless buildup throughout Act I, and it certainly intensifies Batter My Heart by juxtaposition. It's not profound, but it's a useful reminder that these people are just schlubby human beings who have unexpectedly found themselves cast in the role of Destroyer of the World. And as for the opening of Act II, I hate to say it but you would certainly not have been sitting at home eating dinner if Lorraine had been on stage.
Henry, I have to politely disagree with you about whether John Adams is capable at setting English text. I question, as you do, a number of text selections for this libretto, but I don't think one can listen to The Wound-Dresser and come away believing that Adams doesn't know how to set English well. I also feel that the comment that he has "played out" his minimalist style and is exploring Berg because he's a hack could be looked at a different way: my feeling is that he is an extraordinary composer who has fully integrated all of Western music including both 2nd Viennese School and minimalism, and distilled the whole lot into a personal language that unmistakably and identifiably John Adams. That to me is "moving on" at the highest possible level. I agree with all your critcisms from opening night about having the singers face upstage, and about the staging being cluttered, but again, it seems like some of these issues have been addressed in the intervening weeks. As for the sense of disappointment you mention, all I can say is that based on the wide range of reactions that we have seen in the press and among all our bloggy friends, that sense was not universally shared throughout the house.
And finally, Albert, what's the report from the standing room? (You ran right past me on the way to the rail and didn't even say hello!)