Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Turandot in San Diego—Prima la voce

The big musical set pieces in Turandot require voice, voice, and more voice, and San Diego Opera has gifted us with a world-class cast of singing actors.

Dialogues de Carmélites at the Guildhall School: spiritual transcendence and transfiguration

Four years have passed since my last Dialogues des Carmélites, and on that occasion - Robert Carsen’s production for the ROH - heightened dramatic intensity, revolutionary insurrection (enhanced by an oppressed populace formed by a 67-strong Community Ensemble) and, under the baton of Simon Rattle, luxuriant musical rapture, were the order of the day.

'B & B’ in a new key

Seattle Opera’s new production of Béatrice et Bénédict is best regarded as a noble experiment, performed expressly to see if Berlioz’ delectable 1862 opéra comique can successfully be brought into the living repertory outside its native France. As such, it is quite a success.

Of Animals and Insects: a musical menagerie at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall was transformed into a musical menagerie earlier this week, when bass-baritone Ashley Riches, a Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and pianist Joseph Middleton took us on a pan-European lunchtime stroll through a gallery of birds and beasts, blooms and bugs.

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.

San Jose’s Dutchman Treat

At my advanced age, I have now experienced ten different productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in my opera-going lifetime, but Opera San Jose’s just might be the finest.

Mortal Voices: the Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court

The relationship between music and money is long-standing, complex and inextricable. In the Baroque era it was symbiotically advantageous.

I Puritani at Lyric Opera of Chicago

What better evocation of bel canto than an opera which uses the power of song to dispel madness and to reunite the heroine with her banished fiancé? Such is the final premise of Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani, currently in performance at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Iolanthe: English National Opera

The current government’s unfathomable handling of the Brexit negotiations might tempt one to conclude that the entire Conservative Party are living in the land of the fairies. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 operetta Iolanthe, the arcane and Arcadia really do conflate, and Cal McCrystal’s new production for English National Opera relishes this topsy-turvy world where peris consort with peri-wigs.

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Marseille

Any Laurent Pelly production is news, any role undertaken by soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac is news. Here’s the news from Marseille.



Franco Pomponi as Richard Nixon and soprano Maria Kanyova as Pat Nixon [Photo by Ken Howard]
26 Mar 2015

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Franco Pomponi as Richard Nixon and soprano Maria Kanyova as Pat Nixon

Photos by Ken Howard


Director Peter Sellars first suggested the idea for the opera to Adams and eventually convinced him that the piece would be viable despite a lack of action. Alice Goodman then did considerable research into United States President Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to China. Adams, interested in myths and their origins, thought that the opera could show the original history behind Nixon’s mythic visit. He and Sellars wanted a heroic baritone to play the role of Nixon. For this, his first opera, Adams’ usual minimalist music also shows the influence of Wagner and Stravinsky along with jazz and big band sounds. It’s a fascinating mix that we don’t always hear in his later works.

NIX_0349a.pngFranco Pomponi as Richard Nixon, Chen-ye Yuan as Chou En-Lai, and Chad Shelton as Mao Tse-Tung

San Diego Opera staged Nixon in China on March 17, 2015, in a production by James Robinson with interesting sets by Allen Moyer suggesting 1970s television. James Schuette added authentic costuming from the era. Adams has chosen to have the singing amplified in his operas so there was a sound designer, Brian Mohr. There was considerable ballet in this opera and choreographer Seán Curran, along with principal dancers Julio Cantano-Yee and Khamla Somphanh, made it a most welcome and integral part of the show. Loved the dancers as whirling waiters at the banquet.

Franco Pomponi was a more than life sized Richard Nixon who sang his lines with the robust heroic sound Adams originally envisioned. Chen-ye Yuan was an officious Chou En-Lai and Chad Shelton was an elderly but still mentally capable Mao Tse-Tung. Sarah Castle, Buffy Baggott and Jennifer DeDominici comprised the trio of dissonant secretaries who always surrounded Mao. Although women had lesser roles in the actual visit, they had major parts in the opera. Kathleen Kim was a fabulous Madame Mao who sang one of the most difficult coloratura arias ever written as though it was an easy tune. With the simple costume of a Chinese working woman, she showed her artistry with filigrees of sound. As Pat Nixon, lustrous voiced Maria Kanyova was the girl next door who dearly loved the husband with whom she was swept up into history. Always a wonderful character actor, Patrick Carfizzi made Henry Kissinger as interesting and cantankerous as he was during the seventies.

NIX_0590a.png(L-R) Sarah Castle as the 1st Secretary to Mao, Buffy Baggott as the 2nd Secretary to Mao, Jennifer DeDominici as the 3rd Secretary to Mao, and Patrick Carfizzi as Henry Kissinger

Charles Prestinari’s San Diego Opera Chorus provided an excellent rhythmic and harmonic background for the historic scenes found in Adams’ mythic piece. It was the excellent work of conductor Joseph Mechavich that held stage and pit together and made this piece come alive for the San Diego audience. I hope the new San Diego Opera will give us more contemporary opera and allow us to see new pieces as they begin to enter the repertoire.

Maria Nockin

Cast and production information:

Chou En-Lai, Chen-Ye Yuan; Richard Nixon, Franco Pomponi; Henry Kissinger, Patrick Carfizzi; Mao Tse-Tung, Chad Shelton; Secretaries to Mao: Sarah Castle, Buffy Baggott, Jennifer DeDominici; Pat Nixon, Maria Kanyova; Madame Mao, Kathleen Kim; Conductor, Joseph Mechavich; Production, Houston Grand Opera; Director, James Robinson; Set Designer, Allen Moyer; Costume Designer, James Schuette; Lighting Designer, Paul Palazzo; Sound Designer, Brian Mohr; Choreographer, Seán Curran; Chorus Master, Charles Prestinari.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):