Adams is best known for operas on topical themes, including Nixon in China (1987), about the president's 1972 visit; The Death of Klinghoffer (1991), based on a 1985 terrorist hijacking; and Doctor Atomic (libretto by Peter Sellars , 2005) about Robert Oppenheimer and the atomic bomb. Among his many other works are Shaker Loops (1978, rev. 1983) for strings, Harmonielehre (1985), Fearful Symmetries (1988), the
song-play I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky (1995), El Dorado (1993), a violin concerto (1993), Lollapalooza (1995), Gnarly Buttons (1996) for clarinet and orchestra, and the symphonic Naive and Sentimental Music (1999). His 21st-century pieces include the nativity oratorio El Niño (2000); On the Transmigration of Souls (2002; Pulitzer Prize), a meditative soundscape in memory of the victims of Sept. 11, 2001; A Flowering Tree, a lyrical opera based on a South Indian folk tale; the dissonance-filled oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary (2012, rev. 2017), an interpretation of the last days of Jesus; and Girls of the Golden West (libretto by Sellars, 2017), which punctures myths about the California gold rush.
See his memoir (2008); T. May, ed., The John Adams Reader (2006).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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