John Adams: starry production of Nixon in Paris
The Paris Opéra presents a new production of John Adams’s ever-topical Nixon in China in March, with the cast led by Thomas Hampson and Renée Fleming as the presidential couple, and Gustavo Dudamel on the rostrum.
John Adams’s classic opera Nixon in China receives its first staging at the Opéra National de Paris on 22 March, with a starry creative team mixing American and Asian talent. Argentinian director Valentina Carrasco’s new production features Thomas Hampson as President Richard Nixon and Renée Fleming as Pat Nixon, both performing their roles for the first time, Xiameng Zhang as Chou En-lai, John Matthew Myers as Mao Tse-tung and Kathleen Kim as Madame Mao. Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, the Paris Opéra’s Musical Director and a great champion of Adams’s music, conducts the nine performances at the Opéra Bastille.
Valentina Carrasco discussed her new production in a video interview: “Nixon in China tells the story of Nixon’s 1972 visit to China, where everybody tries to show their best side, but many doubts remain, in relation to the present, the past and above all the future. I wanted to refer to a somewhat known event, at least in some parts of the world, known as ‘ping-pong diplomacy’. The first American visit to China is not Nixon’s, it’s the American Olympic table tennis team, invited to play a series of friendly matches… It’s an American opera, American in the broad and true sense of the word, an opera from the New Continent, composed in the United States, directed by an Argentinian and conducted by a Venezuelan… It’s a gift thanks to the music. At the end, it’s full of mystery! It goes from something huge to a very intimate ending, very mysterious, very disturbing… All that followed afterwards… It’s a truly rich work”
> Watch the full interview by Valentina Carrasco (French, with English subtitles)
Gustavo Dudamel introduced Nixon in China to Parisian audiences in a video interview: “I think John Adams is one of the most important modern composers and I know that this is a completely new score for the Opéra de Paris. So, I think it is a very nice way to introduce one of the major works of our time to the repertoire of this magnificent house. I have the privilege, the honour, the chance to have a very close relationship with John Adams. Of course, this is because I have conducted many of the works he has written: The Gospel According to the Other Mary, City Noir, which was the first piece I conducted as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, his piano concerto and many other works. I consider his music to be full of genius... John's music is filled with colour, life, rhythm. Often this virtuosity turns into contemplation. For me this is one of the most beautiful qualities of John Adams' music. For that, he is one of my favourite composers... Beyond what the opera means, the historical context, I believe that the work explores a form of temporality which can be reflected in different moments.”
> Watch the full interview by Gustavo Dudamel (Spanish, with French subtitles)
Nixon in China receives close to 40 performances in Europe this season, with five productions running between February and July. The opera’s Spanish premiere is presented by the Teatro Real on 17 April in the acclaimed production by John Fulljames, already seen at Royal Danish Opera and Scottish Opera, conducted by Ivor Bolton in Madrid. Adams’s opera is also presented in three German productions in the coming months, in Dortmund (26 Feb), Koblenz (19 May) and Hannover (3 Jun) with stagings by Martin G. Berger, Markus Dietze and Daniel Kramer respectively.
Last month saw John Adams conducting a pair of concert performances of his ‘Gold Rush’ opera Girls of the Golden West in a new revised version with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Hall. The cast from the premiere in 2017 was reassembled in Los Angeles, including Julia Bullock, Davóne Tines, Paul Appleby and Hye Jung Lee, and the concerts were recorded by Nonesuch for future release.
"If Adams’s mission was to make Girls of the Golden West shorter and more dramatically forceful, he clearly succeeded... It is without question the experience Adams was seeking."
San Francisco Classical Voice
"Girls is Adams's most personal opera because it echoes his own journey as a young man from Massachusetts moving out to Berkeley, where he’s lived ever since, and to his cabin in the Sierra Nevada mountains, near the site of the Gold Rush in the mid 19th century. For 40 years he’s hiked these mountains, marveling at their beauty and dwelling on the brutality into which the Gold Rush devolved."
> Further information on Work: Nixon in China
Photo: Deborah O'Grady