John Adams's Nixon in China to be presented in New York and Toronto(January 2011)
Receives Metropolitan Opera and Canadian Opera Company Premieres
Composer Will Conduct New York Performances in His Met Opera Debut
John Adams's groundbreaking opera Nixon in China, dramatizing President Richard Nixon's historic 1972 summit with Chairman Mao Tse-tung, will be presented concurrently in separate productions on New York and Toronto stages this winter. In New York, the opera will have its Metropolitan Opera premiere, opening February 2, 2011, with the composer leading the performance in his conducting debut at the Met. The Met's production, an adaptation of the original, continues on February 5, 9, 12, 15, and 19, with the performance on February 12 transmitted to movie theaters across the U.S. as part of The Met: Live in HD series and broadcast live on the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network. An encore of the February 12 performance will be screened in U.S. movie theaters on March 2. Also making his Met Opera debut is director Peter Sellars, who will reunite for these performances with original Nixon collaborators John Adams, librettist Alice Goodman, choreographer Mark Morris, and James Maddalena, who portrayed Nixon at the premiere.
Beginning February 5, 2011, the Canadian Opera Company will premiere the same opera in Toronto at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Conductor Pablo Heras-Casado will make his Canadian debut leading the COC Orchestra, and director James Robinson returns to the COC with the production he debuted at Opera Theatre of St. Louis in 2004, which will also feature archival news media footage and historic photos from the 1972 summit. This production continues on February 9, 11, 13, 19, 22, 24, and 26. The Met: Live in HD screening of Nixon in China will also be shown live in Canadian movie theaters on February 12, with an encore screening on March 12.
Nixon in China, John Adams's first opera, depicts the famous 1972 event while revealing both the public and private lives of some of the 20th Century's most prominent political figures. Written over a two-year period, Nixon in China is regarded as the first ever opera to use a staged "media event" as the basis for its dramatic structure, and the work attracted national press attention even before its world premiere. The music throughout the production is representative of Adams's signature syncopated post-minimalist style. Goodman contributes a complex libretto in rhythmic couplets, which explores historical, political and philosophical issues between the main characters. Following the success of his later operas, The Death of Klinghoffer (1991), I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky (1995), A Flowering Tree (2006), and Doctor Atomic (2008), John Adams has established his reputation as an opera composer who explores the psychology of American mythology while focusing on contemporary history. He was the recipient of the 2009 NEA Opera Honor for composition, an award bestowed upon him for his extraordinary contributions to opera in the United States.
The production is staged in three acts and focuses on six key characters: President Richard Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, Chairman Mao Tse-tung and artist Chiang Ch'ing (also known as Madame Mao), and Premier Chou En-lai. The first act shows the arrival of the American contingent in Peking (present-day Beijing), and the initial forward-looking meetings following the Americans' arrival. The second act focuses on the central female characters, as Madame Mao leads Pat Nixon to a showcase of contemporary Chinese life, visiting sites and experiencing events influenced by the Cultural Revolution, all the while displaying feelings of fragility. The final act depicts the conclusion of the five-day trip, exploring the characters' psyches through inward reflections, as Chou En-lai ponders at the end, "How much of what we did was good?"
The origin of Nixon in China, co-commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, dates back to 1983 when Sellars first approached Adams about an opera based on Richard Nixon, Mao Tse-tung, capitalism, and communism. The original production brought together Peter Sellars, Mark Morris, and the poet Alice Goodman for the first time. Nixon in China was premiered on October 22, 1987 by the Houston Grand Opera at Houston's Wortham Theater Center. A recording of the opera released on Nonesuch Records (featuring the Orchestra of St. Luke's led by Edo de Waart) won the 1989 Grammy for Best Contemporary Composition. Coinciding with the Met Opera premiere, Nonesuch Records will reissue the original cast recording in a newly redesigned three-CD set on February 1, featuring a booklet with the complete libretto and new notes by Adams and Sellars, along with the original liner notes by librettist Alice Goodman and by the late Michael Steinberg.
In New York, there will be two ancillary events featuring John Adams in advance of the opening night at the Met Opera on February 2. Adams will speak to Terrance McKnight of New York's classical music station WQXR (105.9 FM) on January 19 at The Greene Space. This event also features Peter Sellars, and performances by James Maddalena, Kathleen Kim, and Russell Braun. For more information and tickets, visit wnyc.org. The Met will host a conversation about the production with John Adams, Peter Sellars, and other members of the cast, led by Met General Manager Peter Gelb, on February 1, at the Metropolitan Opera House. For tickets to this event, visit metoperafamily.org.
In New York: Nixon in China is presented in English with a running time of approximately 3 hours, 40 minutes, with 2 intermissions.
In Toronto: Nixon in China is presented in English with a running time of approximately 2 hours, 50 minutes, with 1 intermission.
Met Opera Production
Conductor: John Adams
Richard Nixon: James Maddalena (baritone)
Pat Nixon: Janis Kelly (lyric soprano)
Henry Kissinger: Richard Paul Fink (bass-baritone)
Mao Tse-tung: Robert Brubaker (tenor)
Chiang Ch'ing (Madame Mao): Kathleen Kim (coloratura soprano)
Chou En-lai: Russell Braun (baritone)
The Production Team
Production: Peter Sellars
Set Designer: Adrianne Lobel
Costume Designer: Dunya Ramicova
Lighting Designer: James F. Ingalls
Choreographer: Mark Morris
Sound Designer: Mark Grey
Canadian Opera Company Production
Conductor: Pablo Heras-Casado
Richard Nixon: Robert Orth (baritone)
Pat Nixon: Maria Kanyova (lyric soprano)
Henry Kissinger: Thomas Hammons (bass-baritone)
Mao Tse-tung: Adrian Thompson (tenor)
Chiang Ch'ing (Madame Mao): Marisol Montalvo (coloratura soprano)
Chou En-lai: Chen-Ye Yuan (baritone)
The Production Team
Production: James Robinson
Set Designer: Allen Moyer
Costume Designer: James Schuette
Lighting Designer: Paul Palazzo
Choreographer: Seán Curran
Sound Designer: Brian Mohr
Video Designer: Wendall K. Harrington
> For further information on the opera Nixon in China, click here.
> To purchase the Vocal Score of Nixon in China, click here.
> For information about New York's Metropolitan Opera production and tickets, click here.
> For information about The Met: Live In HD, click here.
> For information about Toronto's Canadian Opera Company production and tickets, click here.
> To purchase the 1987 Nonesuch Records release of Nixon in China, click here.
> Visit John Adams website at www.earbox.com or his Facebook page at facebook.com/earbox
For press interviews with John Adams and photos, please contact:
Eric M. Gewirtz, Director, Media and Public Relations
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Hilary Jansen, Publicity Assistant
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Photo Credit: Margaretta Mitchell
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