Post Cards from the Edge Adam's Nixon In China - June 17, 2012, 2:00 pm - San Francisco War Memorial Opera House | Welcome to Fred’s Home Page

Adam's Nixon In China - June 17, 2012, 2:00 pm - San Francisco War Memorial Opera House 


This is definitely an opera singers would love.  There are six major roles in the opera: Chou En-lai, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Mao, Pat Nixon and Madame Mao.  All have major arias or solos.  Even the three secretaries play a major role in the opera, pretty much like Ping, Pang and Pong in Turandot. 

The scene opens with animation of Air Force One flying to China, landing in China, and with the tires giving off smoke as the plane touches down.  As the curtain rises, a pretty much life-size model of the nose of the fuselage and the wing and a jet engine of Air Force One appear on the stage.  It received a well deserved round of applause from the audience for the set.  Nixon and Pat descend the ladder to meet Chou En-lai. 

This is a three act opera with Scene 1 at the airport outside of Beijing.  Scene 2 takes place in Mao’s study and Scene 3 is the banquet at the Great Hall of the People.  Mao, at this point is a doddering old man aided by his three secretaries.  Chou attempts to explain the ramblings of the old man to Nixon who tries to be diplomatic.

Henry Kissinger is pretty much portrayed as a clown and sex pervert in the opera.  Madame Mao plays the role of the one in control of the cultural revolution.  At the end of the opera, after much ado, Chou asks if anything were really accomplished.  Stand out performances were, in my opinion by Maria Kanyova as Pat Nixon and Simon O’Neill as Mao. 

The opera takes place with the backdrop of the U.S. involvement in the Viet Nam war and the attempts to extricate itself.  It suggests Nixon was seeking the support of Mao over the North Vietnamese government. 

All the principles were really outstanding.  Yuan, Costa-Jackson, Birkland, O’Neill, Kanyova and Lee made their San Francisco Opera debut along with the conductor and the director. 

Once you got over the modern set design, the modern theme, it was pure opera: sturm und drang. 

Photo from the San Francisco Opera web site.

© Fred Searcy 2017