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Met HD: Nixon in China


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#1 Helene

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Posted 12 February 2011 - 11:46 AM

The end of the intermission is near, and if you're not listening to the Sat broadcast, tune in now. Act I highlight was Russell Braun's Chou En Lai: he poured out vocal gold. Worth the price if the broadcast: The mini- interview with director Peter Sellars.

#2 Helene

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Posted 12 February 2011 - 01:07 PM

The women owned the second act, first Janis Kelly as Pat Nixon and then Kathleen Kim as Chiang Ch'ing, who was especially funny and frightening when she was angry with the weather. Mark Morris did a wonderful job with "The Red Detachment of Women", which had far more interaction with the main characters than in the production I saw last year in Vancouver. Morris, who gave good interview during 2nd intermission, had a field day with Richard Paul Fink as Henry Kissinger/Landowner, who was rolling all over the place.

I love what this production does with the three translators as mini Greek chorus. Through most of the Mao-Nixon scene in Act I, they had gestures throughout at the same time they sang. At one point they held a gesture so long during a passage in which Mao was singing, my arms almost fell off watching. I'm not sure if they were by Morris, Sellers, or both, but they were brilliant and beautifully done Kudos and :flowers: to the three women.

#3 Helene

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Posted 12 February 2011 - 03:00 PM

Mao is the one major character who doesn't have a major scene to himself, but who sings in the great meeting scene with Nixon in Act I in a role that is written in, according to composer John Adams himself, a "punishing" tessitura. Robert Brubaker was wonderful in the role.

#4 kfw

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Posted 12 February 2011 - 04:48 PM

I love what this production does with the three translators as mini Greek chorus. Through most of the Mao-Nixon scene in Act I, they had gestures throughout at the same time they sang. At one point they held a gesture so long during a passage in which Mao was singing, my arms almost fell off watching. I'm not sure if they were by Morris, Sellers, or both, but they were brilliant and beautifully done Kudos and :flowers: to the three women.

Yes, and I was struck throughout the opera with how sharp the acting was. With their fierce glares and out of focus eyes, these three women had great presence even apart from their gestures. I also thought that James Maddalena was perhaps in better voice than he was during the opening night broadcast.

#5 Helene

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Posted 12 February 2011 - 04:57 PM

I feel terribly spoiled by the last three HD broadcasts: the acting has been fantastic, and especially in "Nixon in China".

I didn't realize that Sellars was directing the broadcast until someone -- Hampson? -- mentioned it. He really chose the close-ups wisely and to the singers' great advantage.

Edited to add: I've been listening to the tape-delayed broadcast on CBC2 in Vancouver -- I think it's live on the East Coast -- and there was just a post-performance mini-interview with Robert Orth, who sang the role in Vancouver and is currently performing it in Toronto with Canadian Opera Company. He talked about having visited Disneyland with his wife and kids and noticed a whole bunch of guys in trench coats talking into their lapels. The occasion was a visit by Richard Nixon, his daughter Tricia, and her children. He said that at the time, while many people were asking for autographs, he would have wanted to kick him, but knowing what he knows now, he would have given him a big hug.

For anyone in Toronto, go see this production!

http://coc.ca/Perfor...xonInChina.aspx

#6 SandyMcKean

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 02:29 PM

Kathleen Kim as Chiang Ch'ing

Three cheers from me too. What a lot of punch in a small package! (She was spectacular as Olympia in "Tales of Hoffman" too.) Frankly, for pure drama, I thought Kim was the most powerful thing in the opera. I had to keep telling myself that this was not the living, breathing woman from hell: Madame Mao

I love what this production does with the three translators as mini Greek chorus.

I'm totally with you on this. They reminded me a great deal of the 3 Rhinemaidens in The Ring with their interesting harmonies and "other worldliness". Their singing alone was not all the power; their hand gestures somehow had more than expected and tremendous impact.

I see most, if not all, of the MET HD b'casts -- 1 or 2 a year, I see a second time. I will be seeing the encore performance of "Nixon in China" on March 2nd for sure! John Adams amazes, and Sellars astonishes.

#7 Helene

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 06:16 PM

San Francisco Opera is presenting "Nixon in China" in its upcoming season, summer half. The company produced a preview CD for subscribers and donors with General Director David Gockley's commentary. Gockley was General Director of Houston Opera when the work was created for that company in the mid-late '80's.

In speaking of the history of the opera, Gockley cites "director Peter's Sellars' iconic production" and later states "In fact, it was Sellars' idea to created the piece, and he brought together Adams and librettist Alice Goodman and painstakingly shaped the piece to his satisfaction."

In speaking of the upcoming production, he said,

We conducted Broadway-style, cattle-call auditions and chose a cast of relatively unknown young singers to create the roles. They are featured, by the way, in the Nonesuch recording of the opera conducted by Edo de Waart.

The final act is the most controversial. I plead for it to be shortened, but could not convince the artists.

You may ask why we are not reviving Sellar's production, which was just shown at the Met. The answer is that Peter would not accept my casting suggestions, which I made because I truly felt they would benefit the piece at this time of history. About the same time I saw the Vancouver Opera production directed by Michael Cavanaugh, and thought that it was good enough to be shown here. At some point a piece needs to be liberated from its original creators as it makes its way to immortality.


I've seen the Vancouver Opera production, which was quite strong. I'm rather confused about his comments about casting. According to the SF Opera site, the casting is:

Richard Nixon Brian Mulligan
Pat Nixon Maria Kanyova *
Mao Tse-tung Simon O’Neill *
Chiang Ch’ing (Madame Mao Tse-tung) Hye Jung Lee *
Chou En-lai Chen-Ye Yuan *
Henry Kissinger Patrick Carfizzi

* San Francisco Opera Debut


Excerpts on the preview disk include performances by Chen-Ye Yuan's Chou En-lai and Maria Kanyova's Pat Nixon, but it is a Naxos recording conducted by Marin Alsop from the Opera Colorado production a couple of years ago and features Robert Orth as Richard Nixon, who was spectacular in Vancouver. Edo de Waart conducted the original cast recording of the opera for Nonesuch, with James Maddelena, Marion Dry, Mari Opatz, Stephanie Friedman, Thomas Hammons, Sanford Sylvan, Trudy Ellen Craney, and John Duykers. (Maddelena was in the Met HD broadcast.)

#8 kfw

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Posted 07 September 2011 - 03:44 AM

In a post on his Hell Mouth blog entitled "The Original Cast Recording," Adams acknowledges his debt in Nixon in China to Phillip Glass and the latter's use of arpeggiation. And in his autobiography, Hallelujah Junction, he writes that in "parts of the 'Chairman's Library" scene in Act I, and the interlude of the storm scene of the Act II ballet, the debt to Phillip Glass's Satyagraha is unmistakable."

I prefer Adams to Glass, but I've never seen or heard Satyagraha and I'm looking forward to the Met's HD broadcast of it in November.


#9 Lynette H

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Posted 07 September 2011 - 04:25 AM

I think I recognise the name Hye Jung Lee: if I'm right she was one of the finalists in the Cardiff Singer of the World this year (shown on the BBC). I recall a really specular aria as Madame Mao, brandishing the little red book.

Yes it was her - details here
http://www.bbc.co.uk...ges/korea.shtml


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