A Look at “Nixon in China”

By | March 23, 2012

The production of “Nixon in China” performed by the Lyric Opera has been called stunning. Credit is given to the pulsating score, composed by John Adams, performed with authority under direction of Ward Holmquist’s baton, by the Kansas City Symphony. In combination with the physical production, inventive staging and extraordinary soloists, this opera is amazing.

The piece was originally staged in 2010 by director Michael Cavanagh for the Vancouver Opera. Most of the key design elements were brought from that production. The design elements resulted in unforgettable stage pictures drenched in color, making this both a visual and auditory combination experience for attendees.

Fragmented moving images represent the various places visited by the first lady. Further into the opera, a collage of rippling American flags become visible around the boundaries of the huge red People’s Republic of China flag. The music is reflected in the captivating mix of intimate and massive set by Erhard Rom. Vibrant lighting somehow becomes instantly subtle and vivid under direction of Chris Maravich.

Combine all of this magnificent imagery with an outstanding cast and the experience is unbelievable. The poetic, and frequently satirical, libretto of Alice Goodman is in perfect presentation for this production.

Baritone Maddalena creates a memorable figure of Nixon as he captures the bizarre mix of vision and triviality required for this role. Baritone Daniel Belcher plays the Chinese Prime Minister, Zhou Enlai, who brings acute lucidity to this role. The wry humor of Mao is brought by tenor Alan Woodrow.

If you’re looking for an opera that is out of the ordinary, but stunning and a sensory experience as well as entertainment, then you need to check out “Nixon in China” this season.

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