"Here was a musically mesmerizing and courageous work on a topic more grimly relevant than ever," wrote Anthony Tommasini in the New York Times. Tommasini's unranked roundup of highlights also included the opening of Copenhagen's new opera house with the premiere of Poul Ruders' Kafka's Trial, pianist Christopher Taylor's performance of Ligeti's etudes at the Miller Theatre, and the return of mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who was sidelined for much of the year with a back injury, to sing her husband Peter Lieberson's Neruda Songs in Boston and New York.
San Francisco Chronicle critic Joshua Kosman also cited Doctor Atomic, while acknowledging the mixed critical response to the opera. He wrote, "Love it or hate it—and responses were all over the map on this one—John Adams' new opera provided fodder for thought, admiration, and shear exhilaration." Also in Kosman's Bay Area top ten: mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli singing Baroque music on tour, Taylor's performance of the Ligeti etudes in San Francisco, pianist Steven Osborne's performance of Messiaen's Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant J_sus, and appearances with the San Francisco Symphony by Jonathan Biss, Catherine Payne, Oliver Knussen, and Natalia Gutman.
Bartoli's visit to Carnegie Hall topped New York Newsday critic Justin Davidson's list, with Doctor Atomic at number two and Neruda Songs at number three.
New Yorker critic Alex Ross put Doctor Atomic at the top of his top-ten list, posted earlier this month on his blog, therestisnoise.com. Also on the list were Peter Sellars and Bill Viola's production of Tristan und Isolde at the Paris Opera, viola da gambist Jordi Savall's performances at the Metropolitan Museum, and Neruda Songs.
The Los Angeles Times asked several local music luminaries to name their top events of 2005. Two of them, pianist and conductor Jeffrey Kahane and Long Beach Opera director Andreas Mitisek, named Doctor Atomic. Ojai music festival director Thomas W. Morris cited the tour of Osvaldo Golijov's Ayre, performed by Dawn Upshaw and the chamber group Eighth Blackbird. Robert Hurwitz, the president of Nonesuch Records, cited a mix of theater, classical music, and other events, including Doctor Atomic, Sellars' Tristan, and the Takšcs Quartet's performance of the Beethoven cycle at Lincoln Center.