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The Exploratorium Annotates Opera -- Doctor Atomic

For Immediate Release:
September 01, 2005

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Jenny Slafkosky (415) 528-4367
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The Exploratorium Annotates Opera -- Doctor Atomic

Website Launches September 1, 2005
www.exploratorium.edu/doctoratomic

On September 1, the Exploratorium broadens its unique collaboration with the San Francisco Opera to probe the history of the making of the first atomic bomb under the leadership of J. Robert Oppenheimer. The San Francisco museum launches a new website, www.exploratorium.edu/doctoratomic, to provide scientific, historical and cultural context for composer John Adams’s new opera, Doctor Atomic, which premieres October 1 at the San Francisco Opera House.

The Website helps to tell the story by annotating the text of the opera, which librettist Peter Sellars bases on historical documents, science and even poetry. The site explicates big issues: the science of fission, the backdrop of the war leading to the decision to use the bomb, the tension among the scientists about the frightening potential they were creating. It also fills in the lesser-known facts: Security measures dictated that the 330 babies born at Los Alamos be given only a post office box on their birth certificates; the streets where scientists and military personnel lived were nameless and unpaved, and one of the few authorized escapes from behind the fenced community was a tearoom 20 miles away that served as a gathering place for both the scientists and a local tribe of the Pueblo Nation. Then there are insightful details: Robert Oppenheimer, who had once aspired to being a poet, read Baudelaire to calm himself before the testing of the bomb, and in the aftermath of the blast reflected on the Sanskrit passage from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, in which Krishna reveals himself as the Creator and Destroyer.

The Exploratorium has a deep relationship to the events depicted in this opera because it shares their legacy. Physicist Frank Oppenheimer, who founded the museum in 1969, and who also worked on the Manhattan Project, was Robert Oppenheimer’s younger brother. During the McCarthy era of the 1950’s, investigations into Frank’s early political affiliations resulted in his losing his university post and ultimately in his inability to work in academia for ten years. This blackballing led to a series of events that culminated in the creation of the Exploratorium, today one of the most influential science education institutions in the world.

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Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm;  every Thursday evening adults only (ages 18 and up) 6pm-10pm.

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The Exploratorium is easily accessible by public transit. Convenient parking is available nearby. For more information, visit www.exploratorium.edu/visit/location-directions

About the Exploratorium
The Exploratorium is the global leader in informal learning, igniting curiosity and inspiring creativity in people of all ages. The world-renowned science museum creates original, interactive exhibits, on display at more than 1,000 science centers, museums and public spaces around the world. Dedicated to education reform in and out of the classroom, the Exploratorium is a premier professional development center for educators and a creator of award-winning educational resources. Since 1969, the Exploratorium has influenced generations of entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, teachers, students, children, museum professionals and everyday doers, reaching nearly 180 million people annually from around the globe. On April 17, 2013, the Exploratorium opened at Pier 15 in the heart of San Francisco's Embarcadero, where it will celebrate a new era of experiences that encourage critical thinking and awaken wonder for generations to come. For more information, visit www.exploratorium.edu/visit.

Exploratorium
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Contact Us:
Jenny Slafkosky (415) 528-4367