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date: 23 February 2020

Atomtod (‘Atomic Death’)locked

  • David Osmond-Smith

Extract

(‘Atomic Death’)

Opera in two acts by Giacomo Manzoni to a libretto by Emilio Jona; Milan, Piccola Scala, 27 March 1965.

Incorporating video and electronic music with a graphic dodecaphonic score, Atomtod is set inside and outside a group of private nuclear shelters. The Proprietor (baritone) chooses those who are to join him inside the spherical shelters: the Constructor who made them (tenor), a General (tenor), a Priest (bass), and to minister to their needs a Servant (bass) and Slam (soprano), the provider of carnal pleasures. As preparations for war multiply on all sides, the Speaker, on video, assures the populace that ‘there is no cause for alarm’. Individual voices from the crowd (soprano, mezzo-soprano, baritone and bass) sing of general foreboding: normal life has been abandoned. The Proprietor’s shelter emerges from the ground; those outside desperately try to gain entrance. Inside the spheres, bourgeois social ritual is pursued in a mounting frenzy of emptiness; outside, crowds are driven hither and thither by loudspeakers around the theatre. Both reach their peak as the bomb explodes. In its wake, as a ‘new crust’ forms on the earth, the mutated chorus lament their fate. A multitude of shelters emerge from the ground. Their occupants, glassy-eyed and half smiling, advance on the audience, while from the auditorium loudspeakers a chant, lacerated by electronic incursions, proclaims their newly acquired immortality....

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