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Photo: Houston Grand Opera 1988

Adams, John

Nixon in China (1987)

Duration: 177 minutes
An opera in three acts

Libretto by Alice Goodman (E,G)

solo voices: colS,lyrS,3M,T,lyrBar,Bar,BBar; chorus; dancers
2(I,II=picc).2(II=corA).3(I=Ebcl;II,III=bcl).4sax(S,2A,Bar).0- BD/wdbl/susp.cym/SD/sandpaper blocks/tamb/hi-hat/TD/sizzle cym/glsp/slapping sound/tgl/sleigh bells-2elec pft-synth or sampler (Kurzweil K2000)-strings(minimum:

NOTE: The hiring of a sound designer is a condition/requirement for permission.

For complete technical specifications go to: mhgrey.wordpress.com.
Abbreviations (PDF).

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

World Premiere
Wortham Theater Center, Houston, TX
Peter Sellars, director / Mark Morris, choreographer
Conductor: John DeMain
Company: Houston Grand Opera


Chou En-laiBaritone
Richard NixonBaritone
Henry KissingerBass-baritone
Nancy T'ang (First Secretary to Mao)Mezzo-soprano
Second Secretary to MaoMezzo-soprano
Third Secretary to MaoMezzo-soprano
Mao Tse-tungTenor
Pat NixonLyric soprano
Chiang Ch'ing (Madame Mao Tse-tung)Coloratura soprano

Time and Place
1972, Peking, China

Chou En-Lai, a small group of officials, and contingents of China’s military forces are on hand to greet the arrival of President Nixon, the First Lady, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at an airfield outside Beijing.  Elated, the President pauses to reflect on the historical significance of this encounter, which is being televised worldwide.  He meets with Chairman Mao, who speaks largely in parables and veiled references.  The President and Mrs. Nixon attend a banquet held in their honor; Premier Chou offers a toast to patriotic fraternity, the first of several throughout the evening.  Mrs. Nixon tours a glass factory, a collective farm, and the Summer Palace.  The Nixons attend an opera, The Red Detachment of Women, created by Mao’s wife, Chiang Ch’ing.  The plight of the heroine, a downtrodden peasant girl, draws them into the action.  Sensing that the Nixons have missed the ideological message of her opera, Chiang Ch’ing gives voice to her revolutionary fervor.  During the last evening of the Presidential visit, the Nixons, Chairman Mao and Chiang Ch’ing, and Premier Chou reminisce privately about their lives.

Dramatic, Poetic

History, Mythology, Politics, Society

Recommended Recording
James Maddalena / Sanford Sylvan / Carolann Page / John Duykers / Trudy Ellen Craney / Thomas Hammons
Orchestra of St. Luke's / Edo de Waart
Nonesuch 7559-79177-2

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