Nixon in China

Nixon in China

Music by John Adams
Libretto by Alice Goodman
Richard Tang Yuk, Conductor

John Adams’s opera 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.

Sung in English with English supertitles

Event Details

Sunday, June 23, 3:00 pm
Sunday, June 30, 3:00 pm

Reserved Seating $45 - $150
Student Rush ½ price with ID on performance day

Free "Meet the Artists" reception on Opening Night

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Creative Team

Richard Tang Yuk
Steven LaCosse
Jonathan Dahm Robertson
Norman Coates
Marie Miller

History, Truth, Love

John Adams’ opera 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.


Richard Nixon

Sean Anderson

“Sean Anderson’s Count [in the Festival’s 2015 Figaro] dominated the action … smooth, flexible, resonant voice.” – Opera News

Pat Nixon

Rainelle Krause

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

Chairman Mao

Cameron Schutza

“He sang … with authority.” – operawarhorses.com; “Clarity of tone, ringing high notes.” – Opera Magazine

Madame Mao

Teresa Castillo

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

Henry Kissinger

Joseph Barron

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

Premier Chou En Lai

John Viscardi

“His robust singing is outdone only by his near-maniacal acting ability.” – Wayne F. Anthony, The Toledo Blade

1st Secretary

Liz Culpepper

Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, featured soloist with Indiana University’s New Music Ensemble NOTUS.

2nd Secretary

Emily Marvosh

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

3rd Secretary

Kristin Gornstein

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