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“The cast is strong across the board … well-choreographed … elegant staging … few of even our major companies could equal the strength of resources and exceptional taste on display in this Nixon in China.” – David Fox, Parterre (6/24/19)
“… the projections and lights are as spectacular as any company can offer … [this production] reassures me that first-rate voices and a first-rate orchestra can pull [the opera] off in a small house as well.” – John Yohalem, Parterre (6/25/19)
MUSIC BY JOHN ADAMS
LIBRETTO BY ALICE GOODMAN
RICHARD TANG YUK, CONDUCTOR
John Adams: Nixon in China
Libretto: Alice Goodman
Premiere: October 22, 1987, Wortham Theater Center, Houston, TX
Beijing, China, 1972
Chinese military personnel crowd an airfield outside of Peking (Beijing) and recite excerpts from “The Three Main Rules of Discipline and the Eight Points of Attention.” The Spirit of ‘76, carrying President and Mrs. Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, lands on the airstrip. The President deplanes and shakes hands with Premier Chou En-lai and his entourage. Nixon speaks of the trip’s importance, his presidential legacy, and his wide-ranging frustrations. He meets with an aged Chairman Mao, who seems more interested in philosophy than in day-to-day political machinations. Three diligent secretaries repeat and record Mao’s every word. Later that day, the Nixons attend a festive diplomatic banquet in their honor. Chou En-lai proposes the evening’s first toast, lauding the beginning of a new chapter in Sino-American relations. President Nixon returns the favor, admitting that his preconceived notions of China and the Chinese people were wrong. The revelry continues late into the evening.
The Next Day
Mrs. Nixon embarks on a tour of the greater Peking (Beijing) area with a cadre of journalists. She visits a factory and is gifted with a small glass elephant from the workers. She pauses near the Gate of Longevity and Goodwill and muses that the aims of the trip are indeed prophetic.
That evening, President and Mrs. Nixon attend a performance of The Red Detachment of Women, a slickly produced ballet depicting the valiant struggle between women workers and a tyrannical landlord. However, Mrs. Nixon is disturbed by the depiction of violence by a figure suspiciously like Kissinger against a young peasant woman. She rushes to the stage to assist her, while her husband assures her that it’s just a play. Chiang Ch’ing quickly storms the stage and angrily declares herself to be both the wife of Mao Zedong and an uncompromising revolutionary leader.
The Last Evening
The American and Chinese leaders retire to their private quarters. Chairman Mao and Chiang Ch’ing dance and reminisce over their first meeting, while the Nixons recall the challenges of both marriage and wartime service. In the meantime, Chou En-lai wonders how much of what he and his fellow revolutionaries did was good.