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© Everett Collection / Bridgeman Images

Adams Nixon in China

From 25 March TO 16 April 2023
Opéra Bastille - Paris
Program

Adams : Nixon in China

3h00 avec 1 entracte de 30 min
Cast
  • Conductor
    Gustavo Dudamel
  • Director
    Valentina Carrasco
  • Performers
    Richard Nixon: Thomas Hampson
    Pat Nixon: Renée Fleming
    Chou En-lai: Xiaomeng Zhang
    Mao Tse-Tung: John Matthew Myers
    Henry Kissinger: Joshua Bloom
    Chiang Ch’ing: Kathleen Kim
  • Venue Info
  • Seating Plan
  • Synopsis

Opéra Bastille - Paris Location Place de la Bastille - 75012 Paris France

  • Venue's Capacity: 2745

From its beginnings under Louis XIV to the present day, including the construction of the Palais Gamier under Napoleon III, the history of the Paris Opera has been marked by the wishes and whims of the French government. The decision to build a new opera on the Place de la Bastille is no exception, made by Frangois Mitterrand less than a year after being elected President. A competition was organized, and of the 750 projects presented, the one designed by the Uruguayan-Canadian architect Carl Ott won. The new building, whose large ground surface ostentatiously marks the site where the French Revolution broke out, was inaugurated during the bicentennial celebrations of that same Revolution in 1989.

 

From the Place de la Bastille, the building's glass facade, with its "aleatory" lighting designed by Yann Kersale, suggests the sober modernism of its interior, even more so because the interior uses the same construction materials as the exterior, symbolizing a desire to open out to the public. Once inside, one can discover the warmth of the light wood that adorns the large 2703-seat hall with its proscenium stage. But the building barely stops here, for one must imagine the enormous backstage that takes up 55 per cent of the edifice's total volume, the six underground stories of technical premises, the workshops that make and stock the mobile sets as well as the costumes, not to mention the Gounod Hall, that has a stage identical to the main one, used for rehearsals. Designed around a symmetrical axis that is symbolized by the sculpted tuning forks that decorate the public premises, the Bastille Opera is a formidable computerized machine for staging opera productions, employing the population of a veritable city-within-a-city.

 

The conductor Myung-Whun Chung faced the difficult task of starting up this machine. The audience discovered productions staged by Bob Wilson or Peter Sellars, which it did not always unanimously applaud. But today, in full possession of its impressive technical means, permitting the rotation of different productions, the Bastille Opera proposes the most diverse performances. Currently managed by Hugues Gall and his music director James Conlon, revivals, premieres and major productions now share the season's billing, at a pace that leaves the audience little respite.

Since 2014, Stépahne Lissner is the Director of the Paris Opera.

Opéra Bastille

The seating plan is given as an indication and has no contractual value.
The division of categories may differ depending on shows and dates.

Synopsis

Nixon in China

NIXON IN CHINA, MINIMALISM INTERSPERSED WITH VAUDEVILLIAN SATIRE

Nixon in China is John Adams's earnest interpretation of a political drama that took place between the head of the states of the two countries in 1972.

The Pulitzar Award (2003) winning composer and conductor adapted the storyline from Alice Goodman's book of the same name.
Through the staging of this opera not only Mr Adams successfully unmasks the irony behind a historical event, but also, seems to raise certain crucial questions.
Even though at the time of its original staging between 1985 and 1987 it raised quite a bit of furore, yet, it is widely considered to be one of Mr Adams's most ingenuous piece of work.

HISTORY

The story unfolds in Beijing, China, where, Richard Nixon and his wife Pat Nixon is paying a state visit. They are accompanied by their personal advisor Henry Kissinger. The presence of and subsequent interactions between Jiang Qing, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai complete the story. The opera consists of three acts.

Act 1

The opera commences with the Chinese troops singing a song of People's Liberation Army in Beijing Airport. As Richard Nixon, his wife and Henry Kissinger unboard the plane they are greeted by Zhou Enlai. Later in the day Nixon visits Mao Zedong in his study. An interesting conversation ensues with Nixon expressing his intention in simpler terms and Mao Zedong resorting to riddles and philosophy in answering them. At the first night of the visit the American delegation is greeted with a grand feast at the Great Hall of the People.

Act 2

The second act focuses on Pat Nixon and her exploration of the daily lives of the Chinese people. She visits a glass factory, a farm and a primary school. Even through her somewhat strictly formal appearance she manages to convey the exchange of goodwill between the neighbours and sings an aria about her hopes for the future.

In the evening Richard Nixon visits an opera depicting a story based on a piece known as The Red Detachment of Women written by Madame Mao. The underlying emotion felt by each of the protagonists seem to blend with the thoughts of the performers of the opera that Nixon views.

Act 3

As the story advances to the third night it becomes apparent that no tangible benefits could be derived from this meeting. Both Nixon and Mao Zedong seem to be lost deep in reverie, each, narrating their personal struggles and turmoil. Only Zhou Enlai asks how many things were changed for better, before, retiring to his work wearily.

MAIN ROLES

Richard Nixon,baritone,James Maddalena
Pat Nixon, soprano, Carolann Page
Zhou Enlai, baritone, Sanford Sylvan
Mao Tse-tung, tenor, John Duykess
Henry Kissinger, low voice, Thomas Hammons
Chiang Ch'ing, soprano, Trudy Ellen Cranley

The combination of Asia inspired music and John Adams's characteristic minimalist melody works well for Nixon in China.
In fact, the superiority of Mr Adam's musical scores ensure that the libretto does not face the ignominy of degrading to just another political satire.

Opéra Bastille

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