Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Three Chamber Operas at the Aix Festival

Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

What a treat to see members of The Sixteen letting their hair down. This was no strait-laced post-concert knees-up, but a full on, drunken orgy at the court of the most hedonistic ruler in the Old Testament.

Don Giovanni in Paris

A brutalist Don Giovanni at the Palais Garnier, Belgian set designer Jan Versweyveld installed three huge, a vista raw cement towers that overwhelmed the Opéra Garnier’s Second Empire opulence. The eight principals faced off in a battle royale instigated by stage director Ivo van Hove. Conductor Philippe Jordan thrust the Mozart score into the depths of expressionistic conflict.

A riveting Rake’s Progress from Snape Maltings at the Aldeburgh Festival

Based on Hogarth’s 18th-century morality tale in eight paintings and with a pithy libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, Stravinsky’s operatic farewell to Neo-classicism charts Tom Rakewell’s ironic ‘progress’ from blissful ignorance to Bedlam.

The Gardeners: a new opera by Robert Hugill

‘When war shall cease this lonely unknown spot,/ Of many a pilgrimage will be the end,/ And flowers will shine in this now barren plot/ And fame upon it through the years descend:/ But many a heart upon each simple cross/ Will hang the grief, the memory of its loss.’

Richard Jones's Boris Godunov returns to Covent Garden

There are never any real surprises with a Richard Jones production and Covent Garden’s Boris Godunov, first seen in 2016, is typical of Jones’s approach: it’s boxy, it’s ascetic, it’s over-bright, with minimalism turned a touch psychedelic in the visuals.

An enchanting Hansel and Gretel at Regent's Park Theatre

If you go out in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. And, it will be no picnic! For, deep in the broomstick forest that director Timothy Sheader and designer Peter McKintosh have planted on the revolving stage at Regent’s Park Theatre is a veritable Witches’ Training School.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

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):