Gerald Finley bar, BBC Symphony Orchestra/John Adams
Gerald Finley’s superb Oppenheimer would convince anyone to stop worrying and learn to love the Bomb
“It was wonderful to sing Batter My Heart again. I hear it now in young singers’ auditions and I can sense the pride – for me and for John – of singing an aria in English with an amazingly passionate subject.” Gerald Finley
This wonderful recording conducted by the composer must be considered definitive in all ways. Canadian baritone Gerald Finley has made the title role his own since the San Francisco premiere in 2005 and he has a wonderful supporting cast here.
The battles of conscience; machinations over whether the Japanese should be warned ahead of Hiroshima; the relationship between Oppenheimer and Kitty, are all played out to a musical score of amazing contrasts and richness. We even hear how the bomb is made and the weather and technical problems that plagued the project.
The American soprano Julia Bullock is ravishing as Kitty in her two big scenes – Am I in your light? and Wary of time, both settings of poems by the feminist writer Muriel Rukeyser, who went to school with Oppenheimer’s younger brother Frank.
There are several references in Adams’ score – Wagner is an obvious one as well as Stravinsky (Oppenheimer attended the premiere of Requiem Canticles). Bach is another, as we hear in Oppenheimer’s aria Batter My Heart, set to John Donne’s poem in the most dramatic, impassioned and visceral of scene closers.
“Lord, these affairs are hard on the heart,” Oppenheimer sings before the bomb detonates and the opera closes with the taped voice of a Japanese woman asking for water. Truly, this is an opera with enormous relevance to our own age of anxiety. Steve Moffatt
Music by Wagner, Griffes, Barber
Stuart Skelton t, West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Asher Fisch
ABC Classics 4817219