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Adams: Nixon in China

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: ping-pong for peace…

Rather than choosing to caricature or satirize its historical characters, John Adams’s 1987 opera Nixon in China, instead tries to strike a balance by avoiding political polarization.

In many ways this is a story without “good guys” and “bad guys.”

Richard and Pat Nixon, along with Chairman Mao are portrayed as flawed, yet complex humans tip-toeing hesitantly up to the brink of a new and uncertain era of history.

Treated more cynically, however, are Mao’s wife Chiang Ch’ing (the architect of the vicious Cultural Revolution), and American diplomat Henry Kissinger, a controversial figure who has alternately been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and publically accused of war crimes.

In this shocking sequence, a violent scene in an agitprop play arouses Pat’s pity, but stokes all the wrong impulses in Kissinger…

Music Heard On This Episode

John Adams (b. 1947): Nixon in China: excerpt
Thomas Hampson, Carolann Page, James Maddalena, soloists; Edo de Waart/Orchestra of St. Luke’s — Nixon in China (Nonesuch, 1990)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
John Adams (b. 1947): Nixon in China: excerpt
Thomas Hampson, Carolann Page, James Maddalena, soloists; Edo de Waart/Orchestra of St. Luke’s — Nixon in China (Nonesuch, 1990)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

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