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John Adams: Nixon in China / Robert Orth

Album Summary

>Adams, John : Nixon in China
Performers Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

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' distinctive music weave together a colorful 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 premiered in 1987.

"This new recording, taken from a live performance at Denver's Ellie Caulkins Opera House in June, 2008, is brilliant. It is sonically way ahead of the Nonesuch (which was recorded at a very low level), thus making it possible to understand almost every word, and Marin Alsop's tempos are slightly slower than Edo de Waart's, which also helps comprehension. She leads the score with grand sweep and understanding, and her Colorado forces bring out its colors vividly; moreover, she inspires her cast to sing as if they're having a great time with this no-longer-new but still odd opera." -Classics Today (10/10)

"Alex Ross, in a Hall of Fame review published in issue 16:6 of Fanfare, declared 'Nixon in China' "a full-blown masterpiece" and "an utterly convincing and utterly idiomatic American opera."... As for the cast, Robert Orth's complex and sympathetic Nixon is but the best of the stellar performances from a company of excellent singers. Maria Kanyova, a lovely lyric soprano, sings a touchingly devoted and down-to-earth Pat Nixon. Thomas Hammons, who created the role of Kissinger, uses his dark, buffo-bass to create an alternately humorous and cynical advisor, and a thoroughly nasty overseer... The original recording on Nonesuch 79177 is still very much available and is quite desirable, but so is this one. So, get one or get both, but definitely experience this amazing opera." -Fanfare


Nixon in China
Nixon in China starts us off like any good Greek tragedy would… with a haunting scene of war and poverty. In this case, the scene is set by the very capable Opera Colorado Chorus. Other tracks are equally ominous as though they came straight from a thriller flick. The historical aspect of the opera is very enjoyable, yet it maintains a very human element throughout in the relationships between the characters. From business to diplomacy to romance, it’s all covered. The language and subject matter is intense at times, but authentic. Composer John Adams makes wonderful use of the libretto, both forceful and mundane, to weave a consistent tapestry of sound. One of the more lighthearted moments is also one of the first things that caught my ear. Premier Chou En-lai asks President Nixon about his flight. Nixon’s response is “Smooth…”, but the music jokes otherwise. It’s witty and it’s honest. Conductor Marin Alsop and singers bring the music to life and help the whole piece strike a nice balance between history and modernity. If you enjoy modern music and are looking for something new, this would be a great addition to your collection.
Submitted on 02/08/10 by E. Apuzzo 
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Works Details

>Adams, John : Nixon in China
  • Performers: Tracy Dahl (Voice); Jennifer DeDominici (Voice); Thomas Hammons (Voice); Mark Heller (Voice); Maria Kanyova (Voice); Melissa Malde (Voice); Robert Orth (Voice); Julie Simson (Voice); Chen-Ye Yuan (Voice)
  • Conductor: Marin Alsop
  • Ensemble: Colorado Symphony Orchestra
  • Notes: Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver, Colorado (06/06/2008-06/14/2008)
  • Running Time: 2 min. 43 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1985-1987
  • Studio/Live: Live