Lieberson has canceled a series of performances because of a back injury sustained earlier this year. According to San Francisco Opera, "Ms. Lieberson's doctors have advised her that she must withdraw from the production in order to allow more time for the healing process." Kristine Jepsen will replace Lieberson in the role of Kitty Openheimer.
Doctor Atomic is based on the life of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who directed the Manhattan Project, the American effort to develop an atomic bomb. It takes place in 1945, in the days leading up to the first detonation of the weapon.
The world-premiere production runs October 1-22 at the War Memorial Opera House. Peter Sellars is the director. Gerald Finley will sing the title role.
The cast will also include bass Friedemann R‹hlig as Edward Teller, tenor Tom Randle as Robert Wilson, baritone James Maddalena as Jack Hubbard, bass Eric Owens as General Leslie Groves, mezzo-soprano Beth Clayton as Pasqualita, and tenor Jay Hunter Morris as Captain James Nolan.
San Francisco Opera music director Donald Runnicles will conduct. Ian Robertson will direct the chorus.
Lucinda Childs, who collaborated with Adams and Sellars on Nixon in China, is the choreographer. Adriane Lobel, a veteran of Broadway and opera, is the set designer. The design team also includes Dunya Ramicova (costumes), James F. Ingalls (lighting), and Mark Grey (sound).
The design, according to a release, consists of "atmospheric representations of the New Mexico desert, the extreme intensity of the workrooms, and the spartan home life of Kitty and Robert Oppenheimer. Both the secrecy and the sense of government-issued thrift about the Manhattan project are telegraphed through discrete uses of materials and mechanics—in one scene change, laboratory-ceiling rafters become perimeter fences guarding the labs."