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  • In the shadow of an atomic bomb, baritone Gerald Finley, in the role of J. Robert Oppenheimer

    In the shadow of an atomic bomb, baritone Gerald Finley, in the role of J. Robert Oppenheimer

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  • Personnel in the pre-dawn glare of an atomic test in the Greenhouse Series at Enewetok Atoll, 1951

    Personnel in the pre-dawn glare of an atomic test in the Greenhouse Series at Enewetok Atoll, 1951

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  • Peter Sellars, director and librettist for the opera “Doctor Atomic,” 2005

    Peter Sellars, director and librettist for the opera “Doctor Atomic,” 2005

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  • “Trinity” test bomb, atop its tower in the New Mexico desert, shortly before the world’s first nuclear test

    “Trinity” test bomb, atop its tower in the New Mexico desert, shortly before the world’s first nuclear test

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  • Director Peter Sellars and Composer John Adams during a rehearsal at the San Francisco Opera House

    Director Peter Sellars and Composer John Adams during a rehearsal at the San Francisco Opera House

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  • Peter Sellars directs an early rehearsal of Doctor Atomic at the San Francisco Opera

    Peter Sellars directs an early rehearsal of Doctor Atomic at the San Francisco Opera

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  • The San Francisco Opera chorus sings in John Adams' and Peter Sellars' new opera “Doctor Atomic”

    The San Francisco Opera chorus sings in John Adams' and Peter Sellars' new opera “Doctor Atomic”

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  • Writer/Producer/Director Jon Else

    Writer/Producer/Director Jon Else

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The Film

Theirs was a project so cloaked in secrecy that not even Vice President Truman knew it existed — a team of top scientists from around the world, assembled high on a mesa in New Mexico, were brought together in 1941 by mastermind physicist Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer to create the most horrifically destructive weapon in human history — the atomic bomb.

Sixty years later, John Adams, a composer with strong roots in minimalism, and stage director Peter Sellars, renowned for his contemporary staging of classical operas and plays, joined forces to forge a monumental new opera. The film Wonders Are Many: The Making of Doctor Atomic chronicles the creative journey to craft an opera that captures the 48-hour period leading up to the Trinity Test, the first-ever detonation of The Bomb.

Weaving together both archival footage and interviews, Wonders are Many mirrors the staging of the opera with the frenetic pace of the top secret Manhattan Project team; they grapple with their doubts and ambitions, personal struggles, practical challenges, and moral dilemmas presented by their terrifying invention.

Looming at the center of both the opera and the film is the enigmatic and exceptional figure of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer himself — the brilliant physicist, the frail aesthete who spoke five languages including Sanskrit, a man who read poetry and married a former Communist.

Dramatic, recently declassified footage of nuclear testing, John Adams’ avant-garde score, and the antics of a 250-person opera company racing toward opening night under Peter Sellars’ direction all culminate in one explosive film.

The Filmmakers

  1. Jon ElseProducer/Director
  2. Bonni CohenProducer