Why You’ll Like Nixon in China

Critics call John Adams’ opera Nixon in China a “modern classic” (Wall Street Journal), “great docu-opera” (Chicago Tribune), and “a compelling, original and thought-provoking art-work” (The Guardian).

But the real question is, why will you like it?

In an interview with Glenn Smith, recorded by and for WWFM The Classical Network (click play button below), Princeton Festival Artistic Director Richard Tang Yuk tells us what he loves about Nixon in China. Here are some excerpts:

The story –

“The libretto is written in a very poetic way. It’s philosophical, particularly the scene where President Nixon and his entourage meets Chairman Mao, the one and only meeting they have on this trip. President Nixon and his Secretary of State are speaking in very literal terms and Mao and his premier Chou En Lai are speaking in very broad, conceptual terms so it’s almost as if you can see happening before your eyes with this wonderful libretto by Alice Goodman that the two parties are not really able to communicate.”

“One reason why I love this opera and I’m so excited about it, I love how the opera ends. At the very end of the opera, there’s a monologue with Premier Chou En Lai and he basically says … ‘After all of this effort, what have we accomplished? Did we make any difference with our lives?’, which is a very broad question for all of us.”

“What I would say to the listening audience is that it’s not just relating a narrative of the trip but it really is a beautiful, poetic transcription of this huge event in history … with some very funny scenes.”

The music –

“Yes, it’s minimalist in that there are certain motific elements that are repeated but this opera in particular … has a lot of rhythmic drive and there are a lot of metric modulations and a lot of jazz elements within the score. The score calls for four saxophones but there are no horns in the opera.”

“I think the music is mesmerizing. Because of this rhythmic vitality and the jazz elements and the way it’s constructed and the fast moving scenes, particularly Act 1 and Act 2, I think it will keep people’s interest from beginning to end.”

So expand your horizons and experience this groundbreaking composition in person! Nixon in China will be performed on Sunday June 23 and Sunday June 30, both at 3:00 pm. More information is available through the Related post below.

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You can listen to the complete interview below –

And for a general but in-depth introduction to the subject of minimalism and style in relation to John Adams’ opera Nixon in China, watch Professor Stephen Arthur Allen’s lecture from June 11, 2019.