The Manipulation of Time Perception in John Adams's Doctor Atomic
Lintott, Robert Warren
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This thesis is the first scholarly study of John Adams's 2005 opera Doctor Atomic. The study includes a brief history of the opera. It then concentrates specifically on one aspect of the work: time perception. Using a newly developed comprehensive methodology, I examine the manipulation of "clock time," "stage time," and "psychological time" in the libretto, the score, and the staging of Doctor Atomic. Thus, a dichotomy between poetry and prose in the "found" texts of Peter Sellars's libretto is reflected in a similar psychological time dichotomy of "now" vs. the timeless. Adams's score accentuates this point by relying on compositional techniques of the Baroque, as well as effectively elongates stage time in the final countdown scene. Finally, the analysis of the 2007 Amsterdam production of the opera reveals that a combination of props, blocking, and lighting in Sellars's staging contributes to the manipulation of the audience's perception of time.