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Encyclopedia > Nixon in China (opera)
Promotional flier for the Nixon in China opera.
Promotional flier for the Nixon in China opera.

Nixon in China (1985-87) is an opera with music by the American composer John Adams and a libretto by Alice Goodman, about the visit of Richard Nixon to China in 1972, where he met with Mao Zedong and other Chinese officials. Image File history File links Nixon_in_China_Opera_Flier. ... Image File history File links Nixon_in_China_Opera_Flier. ... The Teatro alla Scala in Milan. ... John Coolidge Adams (born February 15, 1947) is an American composer, with strong roots in minimalism. ... A libretto is the complete body of words used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, sacred or secular oratorio and cantata, musical, and ballet. ... Alice Goodman is the wife of noted poet Geoffrey Hill. ... Richard Nixon met with Mao Zedong in 1972. ... Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913 – April 22, 1994) was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. ...   (December 26, 1893 – September 9, 1976) (also Mao Tse-Tung in Wade-Giles transliteration) was a Chinese Marxist military and political leader, who led the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to victory against the Kuomintang (KMT) in the Chinese Civil War, leading to the establishment of the People’s Republic of...


The work was commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Houston Grand Opera and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. It premiered at the Houston Grand Opera, October 22, 1987 in a production by Peter Sellars with choreography by Mark Morris. Brooklyn Academy of Music ( pronounced BAM! in Emerilese) is located in Brooklyn, a borough of New York City, at 30 Lafayette Avenue near the Flatbush Avenue Station of the Long Island Rail Road and the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, the tallest building in Brooklyn. ... The Houston Grand Opera (HGO) is one of the leading opera companies in the United States. ... The Kennedy Center as seen from the Potomac River. ... Peter Sellars Peter Sellars (born 1957) is a leading American theater director, renowned for his modern stagings of classical operas and plays. ... Mark Morris Mark Morris (born: August 29, 1956) is an American modern dancer and choreographer whose work is acclaimed for its craftsmanship, ingenuity, humor, and at times eclectic musical accompaniments. ...


The opera is composed of three acts. The first details the anticipation and arrival of the Nixon cortege and the first meeting and evening in China. The second act shifts focus to Pat Nixon, as she makes tours of rural China, including an encounter at a pig farm. The second scene includes a performance of a Communist propaganda play, in which first Pat Nixon, then her husband and then Jiang Qing, intercede in the performance. The last act chronicles the last night in China, in which the characters dance a foxtrot, their thoughts wandering to their own pasts. White House portrait Patricia Ryan Nixon (March 16, 1912 – June 22, 1993) was the wife of Richard Nixon and the First Lady of the United States from 1969 to 1974. ... An Australian anti-conscription propaganda poster from World War One Propaganda is a specific type of message presentation directly aimed at influencing the opinions or behaviour of people, rather than impartially providing information. ... Madame Mao Jiang Qing (Chinese: 江青; Pinyin: Jiāng Qīng; Wade-Giles: Chiang Ching) (March 1914 ~ May 14, 1991) stage name Lan Ping 蓝苹 (Blue Apple), wife of Mao Zedong, and also known as Madame Mao. ...


The opera takes an interesting perspective on the historical meeting by focusing on the personalities and personal histories of the six key players, Nixon and his wife Pat, Jiang Qing and Chairman Mao, and the two close advisors to the two parties, Henry Kissinger and Zhou Enlai. Madame Mao Jiang Qing (Chinese: 江青; Pinyin: Jiāng QÄ«ng; Wade-Giles: Chiang Ching) (March 1914 ~ May 14, 1991) stage name Lan Ping 蓝苹 (Blue Apple), wife of Mao Zedong, and also known as Madame Mao. ... Mao Zedong (December 26, 1893—September 9, 1976) was the chairman of the Communist Party of China from 1935 until his death. ... Henry Alfred Kissinger (born Heinz Alfred Kissinger on May 27, 1923) is a German-born American diplomat, Nobel laureate and statesman. ... This is a Chinese name, Zhou is the surname. ...


Musically, the opera perhaps owes more influence to 1940s big band dance music than any Asian styles, and John Adams adapted the foxtrot theme from the last act into a concert piece entitled "The Chairman Dances". The libretto, however, was written completely in rhymed, metered couplets, reminiscent of poetic and theatrical styles native to China. A big band is a type of musical ensemble associated with playing jazz music and which became popular during the Swing Era from 1935 until the late 1940s. ... This article is about the dance. ...

Contents

Synopsis

Act One

The opera begins at Beijing Airport. A detachment of Chinese troops marches on to the stage and sings a 1930s Red Army song, The Three Main Rules of Discipline and Eight Points of Attention. As the soldiers wait, an airplane taxis and lands on the stage - the Nixons and Henry Kissinger disembark and are greeted by Chou Enlai. As Nixon is introduced to various Chinese officials by Enlai, he sings of his hopes and fears for his historic visit. Beijing [English Pronunciation] (Chinese: 北京 [Chinese Pronunciation]; Pinyin: Běijīng; IPA: ), a city in northern China, is the capital of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ... An Air France Boeing 777, a modern passenger jet. ...


Later, Richard Nixon and Kissinger visit Mao's study along with Chou. While Nixon attempts to set out his stall with a simple and simplistic vision of peace between America and China, Mao wishes to discuss philosophy with Nixon and speaks in riddles. The visit is not entirely a success, and the elderly Mao is soon worn out. Chou departs with Nixon and Kissinger.


On the first night of the visit, a great feast for the American delegation is held in the Great Hall of the People. The Nixons and Chou gradually relax in one another's company as good food and strong drink takes its effect. Chou rises to make a toast to the American delegation, full of fulsome praise and wishes for peaceful co-existence. Nixon responds in kind, congratulating the Chinese for their hospitality and recanting his previous opposition to China. The party continues with mutual compliments and toasting. Great Hall of the People by day. ...


Act Two

Pat Nixon is being escorted to various showcases of contemporary Chinese life - a glass factory, a health centre-cum-pig farm and a primary school. However, the language of Pat's Chinese guides is stilted and formal - they hint darkly of the repressive side of Chinese life that lies underneath the façade shown to foreign dignitaries. Pat sings an aria of her own hopes for the future, a peaceful future of modesty and good neighbourliness, a future based on the values of the American heartland.


Later that night, the Nixons attend the Chinese opera, to see a piece written by Madam Mao called The Red Detachment of Women. The piece is a simplistic display of politicised music-theatre, with the oppressed peasants of a tropical island saved from their brutal landlord by heroic women of the Red Army. 19th century Chinese opera Chinese opera costumes Chinese opera is a popular form of drama in China. ... Red Detachment of Women (Chinese: 红色娘子军, pinyin: Hóngsè Niángzǐjūn) is a Chinese ballet which premiered in 1964. ...


However, somehow the main characters are drawn into the opera, each revealing their true nature, with Pat Nixon defending the weak, Kissinger siding with the brutal landlord and Madam Mao's desire to save the peasants at all costs leading her to become more brutal than the landlord was in the first place. Eventually, a riot develops on stage with Chou and Madam Mao on opposite sides - the opera has become a rerun of the Cultural Revolution. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (Simplified Chinese: , Traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Wúchǎn Jiējí Wénhuà Dà Gémìng; literally Proletarian Cultural Great Revolution; often abbreviated to 文化大革命 wénhuà dà gémìng, literally Great Cultural Revolution, or even simpler, to 文革 wéngé, Cultural Revolution) in the People...


Act Three

On the Americans' final night in Beijing, it has become apparent to all that there will be no great breakthrough - the Shanghai Communiqué is no more than words, a face-saving formula for the world's press to buy into. The main characters look back over their lives - the Maos and the Nixons look back to the struggles of their early years together, Richard Nixon recalls his younger days as a sailor. Only Chou looks deeper, asking "how much of what we did was good?", before casting doubts aside and wearily carrying on with his work. The Joint Communique of the United States of America and the Peoples Republic of China, also known as the Shanghai Communiqué(上海公報), was an important diplomatic document issued by the United States of America and the Peoples Republic of China; on February 28, 1972 during the U.S. President...


Roles

Premiere, October 22, 1987
(John DeMain)
Richard Nixon baritone James Maddalena
Pat Nixon soprano Carolann Page
Chou En-lai baritone Sanford Sylvan
Mao Tse-tung tenor John Duykess
Henry Kissinger bass Thomas Hammons
Chiang Ch'ing soprano Trudy Ellen Cranley
Nancy T'sang, first secretary to Mao mezzo-soprano
Second secretary to Mao mezzo-soprano
Third secretary to Mao mezzo-soprano
Dancers, militia, citizens of Beijing

John DeMain John DeMain is an American conductor and the current Artistic and Music Director for Opera Pacific and Artistic Director for Madison Opera. ... Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913 – April 22, 1994) was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. ... Baritone (French: baryton; German: Bariton; Italian: baritono) is most commonly the type of male voice that lies between bass and tenor. ... White House portrait Patricia Ryan Nixon (March 16, 1912 – June 22, 1993) was the wife of Richard Nixon and the First Lady of the United States from 1969 to 1974. ... Look up soprano in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... This is a Chinese name, Zhou is the surname. ...   (December 26, 1893 – September 9, 1976) (also Mao Tse-Tung in Wade-Giles transliteration) was a Chinese Marxist military and political leader, who led the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to victory against the Kuomintang (KMT) in the Chinese Civil War, leading to the establishment of the People’s Republic of... In music, a tenor is a male singer with a high vocal range. ... Henry Alfred Kissinger (born Heinz Alfred Kissinger on May 27, 1923) is a German-born American diplomat, Nobel laureate and statesman. ... A bass (or basso in Italian) is a male singer who sings in the lowest vocal range of the human voice. ... Madame Mao Jiang Qing (Chinese: 江青; Pinyin: Jiāng QÄ«ng; Wade-Giles: Chiang Ching) (March 1914 ~ May 14, 1991) stage name Lan Ping 蓝苹 (Blue Apple), wife of Mao Zedong, and also known as Madame Mao. ... A mezzo-soprano (meaning medium soprano in Italian) is a female singer with a range usually extending from the A below middle C to the F an eleventh above middle C. Mezzo-sopranos generally have a darker (or lower) vocal tone than sopranos, and their vocal range is between that...

Quotes

  • "News, news, news, news, news -- has a... has a...has a... has a kind of mystery has a...has a... has a kind of mystery." [1]
  • "At the edge of the Rubicon, men don't go fishing".
  • "Who, who, who, who are our enemies? Who, who, who, who are our friends?"
  • "I am the wife of Mao Tse-Tung who raised the weak above the strong. When I appear[,] the people hang upon my words".
  • "Your flight was smooth, I hope?" "Oh, yes! Smoother than usual, I guess".
  • "How much of what we did was good?"
  • "Among the followers of Marx, the extreme left, the Doctrinaire tend to be fascist."

Presumed course of the Rubicon The Rubicon (Rubico, in Italian Rubicone) is an ancient Latin name for a small river in northern Italy. ... Marx is a common German surname. ...

Reception

Nixon in China is often considered Adams' most significant work and one of the major operas of the 20th century. Even after the end of the Cold War that served as the opera's backdrop, both the music and the libretto stand out for their sophistication and accessibility. For other uses, please see Cold War (disambiguation). ...


The reputation of the opera was to a significant measure driven by the its 1988 recording with the original cast and the Orchestra of St. Luke's conducted by Edo de Waart (Nonesuch Records 79177), a strongly casted, vibrant performance by musicians with great personal commitment to the piece, not only among the soloists but also among the orchestra and chorus. Baritones Sanford Sylvan (Chou) and James Maddalena (Nixon) stand out for particularly fine performances. The Orchestra of St. ... Edo de Waart (born June 1, 1941) is a prominent Dutch orchestral conductor. ... Nonesuch Records is currently allied with Warner Bros. ...


Since the year 2000, several new productions of the opera have been staged and well received, including a noteworthy 2006 production by the Chicago Opera Theater.[1] In 2005, a few pieces from Adams' opera were selected as part of an eight-hour soundtrack for the computer game "Sid Meier's Civilization IV", representing the modern era. From a Chicago Opera Theater performance of John Adams Nixon in China in 2006 The Chicago Opera Theater (COT) is an opera company that was founded as the Chicago Opera Studio in 1974 by Alan Stone[1] to give vocal students performance experience, although it has grown into a... Sid Meiers Civilization IV (or Civ IV) is a turn-based strategy computer game released between October 25 and November 4, 2005 in North America, Europe, and Australia. ... The Modern-Era of NASCAR is a dividing line in NASCARs history. ...


References

  1. ^ Delacoma, Wynne. "Nixon before the fall", Chicago Sun-Times, Digital Chicago, 2006-05-14. Retrieved on 2006-09-04.

2006 (MMVI) is a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... May 14 is the 134th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (135th in leap years). ... 2006 (MMVI) is a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... September 4 is the 247th day of the year (248th in leap years). ...

External links

  • Nixon in China: A Great American Opera, by Patrick J. Smith
  • "Nixon in China", review by Erica Jeal, The Guardian, June 19, 2006.
  • Chicago Opera Theater production, summer 2006

  Results from FactBites:
 
James Wierzbicki / John Adams (2456 words)
And that's why ''Nixon in China,'' instead of being just another easily dismissed operatic flop, is a failure of the sort that brings tears of regret to a critic's eyes even as he's wielding the hatchet.
Nixon was presented in a romantic, almost heroic, light; he was portrayed not as a flawed president but as a hopeful human being, someone worried about failing yet still willing to extend the hand of friendship.
Morris' choreography, an incidental feature of "Nixon in China," is constantly on view in "Klinghoffer"; often the main characters are limned simultaneously by a singer and a dancer, and sometimes there is telling dissonance between the performers' statements.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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