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A. Shornikova

Time and space in the opera “Doctor Atomic” by John Adams: to the problem of performativity

The process of development of contemporary music theatre is strongly associated with the search of new ways to present an artistic work to the audience. The art of performance and its characteristic features penetrated traditional theatre and acted as a main catalyst for these changes, eventually affecting even such a conservative genre as opera. Non-linearity and special approach to the spatial-temporal dimension of a theatrical work are those characteristics of performativity that radically changed its structure, dramaturgy and patterns of audience perception. These processes are considered in the article on an example of the opera “Doctor Atomic” by John Adams. Analysis of the libretto, compiled from real documents, poetical and religious texts, revealed its collage-like structure. Composer rejected traditional dramaturgy and concentrated not on the demonstration of linear progression of the famous events but on the psychological side of the story. This approach, together with the disorientation, introduced by heterogeneous libretto sources, aim to provoke personal interpretations and creation of additional meanings. At the same time the play with the audience perception takes place on the musical level. It is supported by the sound-design technologies, which majorly expanded Adams’s palette of expressive means and affect the dramaturgy of the opera. Multichannel surround sound system allowed the composer, director and sounddesigner to create the feeling of the theatrical walls disappearing, engaging the audience into the realistic experience of the tragic events.

Key words

“Doctor Atomic”, John Adams, opera, performativity, sound-design, time and space.

For citation

Shornikova A. Time and space in the opera “Doctor Atomic” by John Adams: to the problem of performativity // South-Russian Musical Anthology. 2021. No. 4. Pp. 45–50.