October 22, 1987 | Houston Grand Opera
Nixon in China
Composer:John Adams
Librettist:Alice Goodman
It is February 1972, and Nixon arrives in Peking on The Spirit of '76 with his wife, Pat, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to begin their historic meeting with Chairman Mao Tse-tung and Premier Chou En-lai. Nixon establishes the priorities of his journey as symbolic and tied to public image back home, while the Chinese have a more philosophical view toward politics and history. The same evening, these philosophical disagreements are temporarily forgotten as the President and his entourage are treated to a lavish banquet.

While Act I is mostly about the men in the opera, Act II places a greater emphasis on the women of the story. Act II begins with Pat Nixon's tour of a commune and the Summer Palace. Later, everyone, including Mao's wife, Chiang Ch'ing, gathers together to watch a contemporary political Chinese ballet, The Red Detachment of Women. In the ballet, real events and fantasy merge together; the scene ends with Mao's wife presenting her views on the Chinese Revolution and her place in history.

In the last scene Kissinger, the Nixons, Chou En-lai, and Mao and his wife reminisce about events in their lives that have shaped them as individuals.

Click company name to view productions details.
Washington National OperaNixon in China10/31/2020 - 11/14/2020
Houston Grand OperaNixon in China1/20/2017 - 1/28/2017
San Diego Opera AssociationNixon in China3/14/2015 - 3/22/2015
San Francisco OperaNixon in China6/6/2012 - 7/7/2012
Lyric Opera of Kansas CityNixon in China3/3/2012 - 3/18/2012
Eugene OperaNixon in China3/3/2012 - 3/18/2012
Canadian Opera CompanyNixon in China2/2/2011 - 2/26/2011
Metropolitan OperaNixon in China2/2/2011 - 2/2/2011
Vancouver OperaNixon in China3/3/2010 - 3/20/2010
Long Beach OperaNixon in China3/3/2010 - 3/28/2010
Opera ColoradoNixon in China6/6/2008 - 6/15/2008
Cincinnati OperaNixon in China7/12/2007 - 7/12/2007
Chicago Opera TheaterNixon in China5/5/2006 - 5/27/2006
Portland OperaNixon in China3/1/2006 - 4/1/2006
Minnesota OperaNixon in China5/1/2005 - 5/22/2005
Opera Theatre of Saint LouisNixon in China6/1/2004 - 6/26/2004

OPERA America/Opera.ca Grants Awarded
Click here to learn more about OPERA America granting programs.
The Opera Fund: Audience Development 2012
The Opera Fund: Audience Development 2005
Opera for the Eighties and Beyond 1988
Opera for the Eighties and Beyond 1987
Opera for the Eighties and Beyond 1986
Opera for the Eighties and Beyond 1985

Title Information

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Approximate Runtime (hh:mm)

Number of Acts

Musical Style
Post-minimalist; lyrical; references to American popular music, jazz, and swing.

Vocal & Musical Forces
bass-baritone, two baritones, three mezzo-sopranos (or three contraltos), tenor, 2 sopranos; satb chorus; ballet (8 required).

Original Cast
Sanford Sylvan (Chou En-lai)
James Maddalena (Richard Nixon)
Thomas Hammons (Henry Kissinger)
Mari Opatz (Nancy T'ang, 1st secretary to Mao)
Stephanie Friedman (2nd secretary to Mao)
Marion Dry (3rd secretary to Mao)
John Duykers (Mao Tse-tung)
Carolann Page (Pat Nixon)
Trudy Ellen Craney (Chiang Ch'ing)
Steven Ochoa (Hung Ch'ang-Ch'ing)
Heather Toma (Wu Ching-hua)

Technical Production Directory
There are 3 entries in the Technical Production Directory for this work.

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