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…