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Opera Review | “Nixon in China” or the grotesque of history



The curtain opens and a large file appears. Gray shelves and several brown carton boxes. bureaucratic dream. The music sounds determined, almost laconic. Some of the employees pull out the jar with the mummy Lenin, covered with his red flag. The orchestra indulges in its frantic simplicity: arpeggios, arpeggios come in. In the center of the scene, on a circle of screens, is Air Force One. A crowd of officials watching the film is stunned: they are about to remember the date.

In February 1972, the President of the United States Richard Nixon lands on Beijing. This “feat” was followed by millions of viewers from the comfort of their homes. More spectators than the Apollo 11 landing. On the moon John Adams Among them was (who was then unloading imported Asian trinkets). eleven years later, Peter Sellarsthe legendary theatre’s manager, suggested turning the event into an opera. Nixon in China It premiered in 1987 in Houston, and Last Night premiered in Spain, at the Teatro Real.

Let’s go back: an ominous chorus that pays homage to Maoist ideology. The Yankee president theatrically descends the flight deck and shakes his hand Zhou Enlai, Chinese Prime Minister. Flashes and grains provide a description of the great event. Nixon is thrilled: It will be on the news all over the world. “The news has this mysterious ring. When I shook hands with Chou En-Lai in that barren field outside Beijing, the whole world was listening.” NewsAnd News”Obsessed and tired, the chief repeats.

In a room cluttered with boxes and posters, seated in a plaid armchair, is waiting for Chairman Mao (completely cracked) accompanied by some gray secretaries armed with notebooks. On one side, an old man with his poster surrounded by party gear; Nixon, on the other hand, was brash and calculating Kissing. The structure of music seems to demonize itself: overlapping, ostinati Parliaments run over. Wonderful booklet Alice Goodman It is permeated with controversies and cliches. Nixon never misses an opportunity to spoil. Lied to me Confuciuswhich angered his interlocutors. The music takes on an angry turn: the gentlemen are not purged at all.

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We change the scene and the two delegations continue to disguise themselves around a large table. Adams’ score, in a general tidal wave, introduces jazz bars and traditional Chinese sounds; Small scenes germinate and reintegrate into the large flow of the composition. Restrained Leaders Roast and Relax: International Politics Overtures, Listen Up.

The role of the first ladies

We’re in Chapter Two and now it’s the ladies’ turn. Mrs. Nixon (Mrs. Pat) succumbs to Turnier Advertising. unique crystal elephant plants (imitation jade); Pig farms, hospitals and schools. She, somewhat sly, recalls her humble origins as the chorus recounts horrific events. “I wanted to come here… What a beautiful garden! Shall we have time for a picnic?” At that time they worked in stone. “Labor was very cheap. Men dug their own graves. And erected statues over them covered with the dust of their own creation. Communist elements! Men like them start revolutions. Swimming in space like fish in the sea, resting from the currents though they had two bowls of rice a day.”

That night, while performing a “revolutionary” ballet, he xiang ching, the fanatical wife of the great helmsman. The scene turns into a dream of Mrs. Nixon, caught in the heat of the Cultural Revolution, gun in hand. Madame Mao (“I am Mao Zedong’s wife, I speak according to the book”) begins with a very violent song, with colorful coloring written with a bad idea (loud voice, jumping pitch, broken phrasing). In the midst of this collective alienation, the curtain falls.

The opera withdraws as it progresses. Fewer scenes, less loud music. After the madness of the historic encounter, the couples reminisce about their past. They do it separately, but the music covers it up for us. This heartwarming (giant with feet of clay, you know) moment is heartbreaking: Four men like you and me have managed to take over the world. The score, which is already there, illustrates biographical passages. Sitting in the corner, Chou En-Lai works in his office. The leaders finish their incantations and meekly enter a large chest. The prime minister gets up from his desk and hands a file to an archivist. He told her, “Heal this wound.” “Of everything we did, how much was really good?” The box heads to your shelf. En-Lai accompanies her, like one who follows a coffin.

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“Outside this wall, the hail of forgiveness falls like a mist on the grass.”

Thus ends the massive version of Nixon in China which can actually be seen. Let’s list three great advantages. the first , An unusual effort for orchestra (result from Look at Me and Don’t Touch Me), performed with extraordinary precision by Olivia Lee Gunderman (A woman with a club is not seen, unfortunately, every day.) the second, A wonderful play by John Fulgamis, which proposes that functional and gray space that frames the opera, subtly placing historical images through well-inserted projections: some mere documents; others, from the embarrassment that good leaders ignore in their actions. Finally, the exceptional performance of the entire vocal team (making Audrey Luna In the role of Mrs. Mao is impressive), the movement of the whole scene and the wonderful performance of the dancers, under the wonderful direction of before John Ross.

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