Parlando: The COC Blog

11/24/2010

John Adams on Nixon in China

Nixon in China is the only opera in our mainstage season written by a currently living composer, and the only opera depicting relatively recent history (as opposed to, say, the exploits of Tudor-era royalty or Roman emperors). This has an interesting effect on the experience of preparing and learning about the opera. Unlike with Maria Stuarda, we can compare the costume designs to photographs of what Nixon and Mao were actually wearing during that week in 1972 (a Google image search for "Pat Nixon China" will turn up dozens of pictures of a red coat similar to what you'll find in our production photographs). We can immediately recall how Richard Nixon spoke and carried himself by watching videos of his speeches on YouTube. And, unlike Mozart or Wagner, we can see the composer on YouTube as well and hear him comment on his own work.

In the video below, John Adams, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer of Nixon in China, discusses the structure of the opera, the importance of its female characters, and his take on the personalities of Richard Nixon and Chairman Mao. I encourage anyone interested in learning more about Nixon in China to explore the wealth of materials available on YouTube, which include interviews like the one below, footage of Nixon's visit, and copious excerpts from other productions of the opera itself.

Posted by Cecily Carver / in 2010/2011 / comments (0) / permalink


Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001