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James Maddalena (Richard Nixon), Janis Kelly (Pat), Kathleen Kim (Chiang Ch'ing), Robert Brubaker (Mao Tse-tung), Russell Braun (Chou En-lai) & Richard Paul Fink (Henry Kissinger)
‘The opera and the production may have come to the Met at just the right time to comprehend the continuing resonances of this audacious and moving opera.’ New York Times
‘A modern masterpiece.’ Washington Post
Nonesuch Records releases the Metropolitan Opera's performance of John Adams' Nixon in China, with the composer conducting, on Blu-ray and DVD together in one package on November 19. The Met's production, staged by Adams' long-time collaborator Peter Sellars, stars James Maddalena as Richard Nixon, a role he created at the opera's world premiere in 1987 and has since performed at international leading opera houses, including the English National Opera, Netherlands Opera, and Brooklyn Academy of Music. Nixon in China was recorded and broadcast live in movie theatres around the world as part of The Met: Live in HD on February 12, 2011 - 10 days after the opera received its Met premiere.
The opera's libretto is by American poet Alice Goodman, who also collaborated with Adams and Sellars on The Death of Klinghoffer. The Met's production, which was originally created by the English National Opera, features the work of the 1987 world premiere's design team, including set designer Adrianne Lobel, costume designer Dunya Ramicova, lighting designer James F. Ingalls, and choreographer Mark Morris. Nixon in China also features Janis Kelly as Pat Nixon, Kathleen Kim as Chiang Ch'ing, Robert Brubaker as Mao Tse-tung, Russell Braun as Chou En-lai, and Richard Paul Fink as Henry Kissinger. Adams, who regularly conducts major orchestras around the world, made his Met debut as conductor with Nixon in China; his opera Doctor Atomic had its Met premiere in a well-reviewed 2008 production.
"I met Peter Sellars in 1983, and he proposed the idea and even the title for Nixon in China. My first response was pretty skeptical-Nixon was little more than a butt for late night comedians by that time," Adams tells the Met's Elena Park in an interview published in the Blu-ray/DVD's booklet. "But I eventually realized it was a perfect idea, and that it was right to find our mythology in our own contemporary history."
In the same interview, Sellars says of Nixon in China's arrival at the Met: "It's very sweet after 25 years. We created it as anti-grand opera originally, and now it's beautiful that at the Met it can be genuinely grand. The work was made by a group of very young, very idealistic people. We were trying to show what opera can contribute to history, which is to deepen it and move it into its more subtle, nuanced, and mysterious corners, which might just open into more surprising and satisfying possibilities for a future."
Picture Format: 1080i 29.97 HD 16:9
Colour Mode: Color
Region Code: All Region
Disc Format: BD25
Duration: 177 mins
Sound: (1) Dolby TrueHD 24-bit Surround (2) Dolby TrueHD 24-bit Stereo
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese
Bluray with DVD.
“James Maddalena, the original Nixon, may have lost some vocal tautness, but his presentation of Nixon’s complex character has grown only richer. And most of his colleagues are magnificent: Janis Kelly, shining bright as Pat Nixon; Russell Braun, wonderfully pained and sombre as Zhou Enlai; Kathleen Kim as Chairman Mao’s wife, eyes and mouth dripping venom.” The Times, 30th November 2012 ****
“As a record of [Sellars's, Adams's and Maddalena's] achievement, this is a valuable document...by 2011 Maddalena was in vocal decline. Future generations will see Nixon in China as the composer intended But it gives due prominence to Janis Kelly’s Pat Nixon and Kathleen Kim’s Madame Mao, and it is wonderful to be re-acquainted with Mark Morris’s choreography.” Financial Times, 29th December 2012 ****
“Maddalena (though not in best voice) portrays a more noble Nixon pushed to his diplomatic limits. The heart of the opera is Pat Nixon, portrayed by Janis Kelly with less sense of submission and a lot more depth..Given Sellars's penchant for tight camera close-ups in his video direction, the opera often feels like the intimate chamber work that, in its conflicted heart, it actually wants to be.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2013
“Though vocally strained, James Maddalena brings baffled tenderness to the title role. Janis Kelly is a superb Pat Nixon, Russell Braun a noble Chou En-lai. Robert Brubaker's Mao is tetchy, while Kathleen Kim is an incendiary Madame Mao and Richard Paul Fink an oily Kissinger.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2013 ****
Usually despatched in 4 - 5 working days.
Carolann Page, Trudy Ellen Craney, Mari Opatz, Stephanie Friedman, Marion Dry, James Maddalena, John Duykers, Thomas Hammons, Sanford Sylvan
St Luke's Chorus & Orchestra, Edo de Waart
“Whatever its weaknesses, there's no denying that Nixon in China is striking. Structured curiously, its three acts reduce from three scenes to two, and then to one, and they diminish proportionally in duration from more than an hour in Act 1 to the unbroken 30-minute span of Act 3. This last act played out in the statesmen's bedrooms, is a weary sequence of dialogues and soliloquies, ending in a curious but calculated state of anticlimax. Preceding this, though, is a run of colourful scenes that symbolise the main events without imposing any artificial sense of dramatic shape. By the end of the work, the public faces have given way to private lives; even Nixon and Chairman Mao emerge as mere mortals rather than mythical demi-gods.
The music serves the libretto deftly in fastmoving dialogue but the reflective and rhapsodic portions of text seem to leave Adams baffled, the melodic lines wandering aimlessly, short on intrinsic musical interest and rarely moving the singers to expressive performances.
In the handling of spectacle and scene-setting, by contrast, Adams is in his element. He freely avails himself of any idiom, any oblique references or musical quotation that serves as a means to an end. Some passages would be unthinkable without the operas of Philip Glass; elsewhere lie uncanny ghosts of 1930s Stravinsky.
Magpie just about sums this score up. The singing is sympathetic, with James Maddalena as an aptly volatile Nixon and Trudy Ellen Craney coping admirably with the coloratura lines of Madam Mao.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Robert Orth, Maria Kanyova, Thomas Hammons, Marc Heller, Tracy Dahl, Chen-Ye Yuan, Melissa Malde, Julie Simson & Jennifer DeDominici
Colorado Symphony Orchestra & Opera Colorado Chorus, Marin Alsop
A longtime collaborator of John Adams and champion of his music, Marin Alsop directs this live recording of Opera Colorado’s 25th Anniversary Celebration production of Nixon in China, presented at Denver’s new Ellie Caulkins Opera House during the 2008 National Performing Arts Convention, and featuring an internationally recognized cast.
Alice Goodman’s epic libretto and John Adams’s distinctive music weave together a colourful fabric of actual events from President Nixon’s historic visit to the People’s Republic of China with intimate examinations of the opera’s real life characters.
The spectacle, drama, humor and pathos of this masterpiece remain as compelling today as when the opera was premièred in 1987.
“[The] performance, brilliantly conducted by Marin Alsop and delivered by a strong cast led by baritone Robert Orth in the title role… Alsop, a proven master of Adams’ style both early and late, led a dynamic performance… Conducting the Colorado Symphony, she shepherded her forces nimbly.” San Francisco Chronicle concert review
“…Alsop balances rhythmic drive with careful pointers to Adams's later, more lyrical achievements… Robert Orth gives a remarkable sung impression of the president's speaking voice… Tracy Dahl (Madame Mao) and Maria Kanyova (Pat) comfortably outshine their boyish predecessors.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2009
“Marin Alsop might not topple de Waart off his default top-spot, but she does provide a strikingly different performance that forms a worthy counterpoint to his...here you hear the machinery of Adams’s writing: bright, alert, lucid, occasionally thin, but brilliantly textured.” Andrew Mellor, bbc.co.uk, 21st December 2009
“…Marin Alsop is the persuasive conductor of this live recording from Opera Colorado's 2008 production. Robert Orth is powerful yet detailed in the title-role, and Maria Kanyova sings the neurotic Pat Nixon with great intensity. Tracy Dahl is strong in Madame Mao's coloratura, and there are good performances from Thomas Hammons (Kissinger) and Marc Heller (Mao Tse-tung)...” Gramophone Magazine, December 2009
“Alsop has this music in her very being, and her version is cast from strength. Robert Orth is a strong Nixon and his wife Pat is intensely and sympathetically characterized by Maria Kanyova. But Tracy Dahl steals the shows in her sympathetic portrayal of Madame Mao, particularly in the coloratura of the closing Act. An unforgettable set.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition
(also available to download from $12.50)
Usually despatched in 2 - 3 working days. (Available now to download.)