Opera | Nixon in China

Music by John Adams
Libretto by Alice Goodman

Sung in English with supertitles

Richard Tang Yuk, Conductor

Ticket Sales Begin in Early March

Sunday June 23 at 3 pm

Please join us immediately afterwards for a free “Meet the Artists” opening night reception

Sunday June 30 at 3 pm

Matthews Theatre, McCarter Theatre Center
91 University Place, Princeton

Nixon in China imbues a world-changing political event with the emotional charge more commonly found in personal dramas and mythological stories. Its poetic libretto is set to exciting and expressive music . While this contemporary masterpiece is relevant to today’s political and international situation, it also reminds us that human stories and motivations lie behind all political action.


Nixon in China tells the story of Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to the People’s Republic of China, a politically significant act that ended 25 years of silence between two major nations.

The opera begins at the tarmac when Air Force One lands in China. Richard and Pat Nixon are greeted by a military chorus singing of “Three Rules of Discipline and Eight Points of Attention.” Nixon speaks of his hopes for the two countries, uttering a line that underscores a theme of this opera: “News has a kind of mystery.”

As the opera progresses, we are introduced to an enigmatic Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, his power-hungry wife, the sympathetic and thoughtful Chinese premier Chou En-lai, the calculating U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and three secretaries to Mao. The principal characters reveal their unique feelings about China’s Cultural Revolution, and their own backstories weave together to build a framework of human experience behind the dissolution of the historic opposition between two world powers.

John Adams sets the story of Alice Goodman’s marvelous libretto to a score that miraculously combines neo-romantic emotion with the pulsing minimalist rhythm of modern life. The score melds European and American influences, from Wagnerian opera to big-band ballads. There are arias, choruses, even a fox-trot – and it all works.

Nixon in China is a work of magnificent musical storytelling, but it also encourages the audience to think deeply about the power of performance and the nature of political speech. It is an opera for our time.

The Cast

Sean Anderson

Richard Nixon
Sean Anderson

“Sean Anderson’s Count [in The Princeton Festival’s Figaro] dominated the action. (He) offered a smooth, flexible, resonant voice…expressive and in full command of the material.” – Opera News

Rainelle Krause

Pat Nixon
Rainelle Krause

“The voice was pure, the intonation absolute.  She was a pleasure to hear.” – The Herald Times; “Vivacious!” – Opera News

Cameron Schutza-Photography by Fay Fox

Chairman Mao
Cameron Schutza

“He sang the prophetic first act aria … with authority, was effective in the trio, … and affecting in his final duet.” – operawarhorses.com; “Clarity of tone, ringing high notes.” – Opera Magazine

Teresa Castillo-Kaleigh Rae Photography

Madame Mao
Teresa Castillo

“Young soprano Teresa Castillo … imbued the role’s coloratura with equal turns ardor and unshakeable dread.” – Opera News

Joseph Barron

Henry Kissinger
Joseph Barron

Princeton Festival favorite: Swallow in Peter Grimes (2016); Pizarro in Fidelio (2017). “Vocally robust … lyrically malevolent.” – Anthony Tommasini, New York Times.

John Viscardi

Premier Chou En Lai
John Viscardi

“His robust singing is outdone only by his near-maniacal acting ability. He creates such a lovable character that he dominates the stage whenever he enters.” – Wayne F. Anthony, The Toledo Blade

Liz Culpepper

1st Secretary
Liz Culpepper

Mezzo-soprano Liz Culpepper has sung Suzuki in Madama Butterfly and was a featured soloist with Indiana University’s New Music Ensemble NOTUS and the Bloomington Chamber Singers.

Emily Marvosh - Photo by Tatiana Daubek

2nd Secretary
Emily Marvosh

“Emily Marvosh’s luminous contralto voice glorified all it touched.” – Boston Globe

Kristin Gornstein

3rd Secretary
Kristin Gornstein

“The clear-voiced mezzo-soprano Kristin Gornstein [sang] an evocative, liturgical vocal line enhanced by a colorful percussive underpinning.” – The New York Times