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Schedule - Deutsche Oper Berlin

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Nixon in China

John Adams [*1947]

Information on the piece

Opera in three acts
Libretto by Alice Goodman
First performance at the Houston Grand Opera on 22 October 1987
Premiere at Deutsche Oper Berlin on 22 June 2024

3 hours 30 minutes / one interval

In English with German and English surtitles

Pre-performance lecture (in German): 45 minutes prior to each performance

recommended from 16 years
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Kindly supported by Förderkreis der Deutschen Oper Berlin e. V. Presented by radio3 and taz.

About the performance

About the work
Two of the world’s most powerful men shake hands – as the world looks on. With their opera about the state visit by US President Nixon to China in 1972 composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman rendered a recent historical event in operatic form. They envisioned a »heroic opera« telling of modern myths and the power of images. This rapprochement between the two great powers gave rise to one of the most prodigious media spectacles of the 20th century. Nixon himself put the event on a par with the moon landing. The opera, whose composition was pushed for by Peter Sellars, the director of the eventual premiere, is a depiction of both the details of the visit and the coverage by the media. Alice Goodman’s libretto reflects the tradition of 19th-century opera, with larger-than-life characters interacting and the protagonists dealing with both affairs of state and their private lives. Staged in the style of an excessively satirical documentary, the minimal-music opera sticks close to protocols from the state visit, depicting the larger-than-life protagonists swerving between exhibitionism, helplessness and the desire to reach a mutual understanding.

36 years after the world premiere this will be the first new production of NIXON IN CHINA to be mounted by the Deutsche Oper Berlin. With his works featuring prominently on opera house programmes, John Adams is, alongside Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Terry Riley, one of the key exponents of minimal music, an art form that sprang up in the 1960s as a response to the European avant-garde. Yet the opera, arguably Adams’s best known, eludes this kind of narrow categorisation due to its hybrid character, even if it is emblematic of the minimal-music style. With its rich tonal orchestrations and trancelike repetitions, the work shows sound wizard John Adams including flurries of big-band swing and allusions to European classical music.

About the production
Hauen und Stechen, the musical-theatre collective centring on Julia Lwowski and Franziska Kronfoth, is known for its performative authorial style and its topical, genre-blending theatre evenings. Their staging of NIXON IN CHINA focuses primarily on the propaganda aspect of the summit, which pointedly avoided discussing delicate issues such as the Vietnam War and the status of Taiwan. Following on from their stage event in response to Rossini’s IL VIAGGIO A REIMS as part of the AMBUSHED FROM BEHIND series, the collective now returns to the Deutsche Oper Berlin with its first production for the main stage.

Our articles on the subject

Nixon in China – Synopsis
Who’s conducting whom here?
His big occasion
The day politics became show business
Propaganda and truth
Nixon in China – the (Great) American Opera of the 20th Century?
Panda Blues
Melting Pot
Nixon in Wonderland

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Nixon in China
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