John Adams’ audacious first opera turned the music world on its head, creating a whole new genre, dubbed “CNN opera.” Unlike most operas written since, Nixon has entered the rarefied pantheon of the international repertoire. With Adams himself conducting and the acclaimed Elkhanah Pulitzer directing, this innovative production promises to be historic in its own right.
It all began as a suggestion from director Peter Sellars to Adams about creating an opera based on President Richard Nixon’s unprecedented visit to China in 1972. Skeptical at first, Adams incorrectly assumed that this work would be some kind of satire. Poet Alice Goodman (today an Anglican priest) was drawn in to create the libretto, and thus a heroic opera on how mythology is created from the very human figures in today’s headlines slowly came into being.
In setting Goodman’s text, Adams moved beyond his minimalist origins to combine a wide range of musical styles. Ever since the premiere by the Houston Grand Opera, Nixon’s reputation has grown, with it now being regarded by many as the Great American Opera.
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