The new opera about J. Robert Oppenheimer.

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Oct. 19 2005 1:21 PM

Dr. Atomic

An opera about the moral complexities of Hiroshima.

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The opera ends with the test explosion. It is understatedly rendered with most of the cast down on their chests, awaiting the blast to the rising heartbeat rhythm of drums, then raising their heads to look into the intense red and yellow light, their faces awestruck. The music subsides into a silence that is broken intermittently by a Japanese voice repeating, "A drink of water, please." This was the desperate request of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and is Dr. Atomic's artful reminder how men and women die every day for lack of attention to the consequences of waging wars that kill and wound the innocent.

Daniel J. Kevles teaches history at Yale. His works include In the Name of Eugenics and The Baltimore Case.