His big occasion

Photos are what determine public opinion. Richard Nixon’s state visit to Communist China was an event that changed the way politics was covered in the media. Trivia took the place of politics, photo calls superseded signed agreements.

Photos are what determine public opinion. Richard Nixon’s state visit to Communist China was an event that changed the way politics was covered in the media. Trivia took the place of politics, photo calls superseded signed agreements. The visit set a benchmark in staged events that survives today.

It was a state visit marked by superlatives. When his plane touched down on 21st February 1972 in Peking, Richard Nixon became the first US President to visit the Communist People’s Republic of China. The trip had been planned months in advance. Almost a third of Nixon’s 300-strong entourage was made up of reporters, photographers and TV technicians.

As the world looked on with bated breath, Chinese Premier Chou En-lai shook the hand of the arch-enemy on the airport tarmac and a Chinese band struck up the American national anthem. A six-day programme of intensive tourism followed: the Great Wall, imperial tombs, Forbidden City, every box ticked. Talks yielded little but ushered in a change in the style of media coverage. Nixon was up for re-election in the autumn and the summit guaranteed him ceaseless media exposure.


»We came in peace for all mankind.«
Richard Nixon


Instead of politics, the public were served trivia. When Chairman Mao, against expectations, met Nixon on the first day, the FAZ headlined with »Nixon received by Mao immediately«. As the content of the talks was secret, the media resorted to interpreting gestures and facial expressions.

Reports of labour camps or jailed dissidents? Nothing of the kind. Nixon drinking tea at the foot of the Wall? Breaking news! Nixon’s wife visits a People’s commune, is shown some very contented pigs, an acupuncture clinic, a school, a glass factory. And the media track their every move, noting all gifts exchanged, including an ancient jade receptacle, some bottles of Mao-Tai schnaps and two panda bears – in return for the two musk oxen that Nixon brought with him.

Nixon was feted on his return, referring to a week that changed the world. »A triumph of international politics« enthused »Die Zeit«. Four months later a janitor in Washington D.C. phoned the police to report a break-in at the Watergate office building, the HQ of the Democratic Party, triggering another major event that the world would come to associate with the name Richard Nixon.



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Advents-Verlosung: Das 2. Fensterchen

In today's Advent calendar window, we are giving away 3 DVDs of "Der Schatzgräber" - an opera in a prelude, four acts and a postlude by Franz Schreker. If you would like to win one of the three DVDs, please send an e-mail today with the subject "The 2nd window" to advent@deutscheoperberlin.de.

DER SCHATZGRÄBER (THE TREASURE HUNTER) by Franz Schreker was a triumph at its world premiere in Frankfurt in 1920 and went on to play 44 times at assorted venues over the next five years. It then fell victim to a shifting zeitgeist and slipped from opera-house programmes, with a National Socialist ban on performances sealing its demise. Even after 1945 the Schreker revival was a long time coming – and THE TREASURE HUNTER has not featured prominently in the renaissance.

As with the vast majority of Schreker’s libretti, the story of Els and Elis explores the relationship between fantasy and reality, between art and life. Soulmates in the sense that they are both at the mercy of the king’s disposition, Els and Elis set off in search of different treasures. Elis, the minstrel, uses his magic lute to locate a stash of jewels and do humanity a good turn. Els, an innkeeper’s daughter who has grown up motherless in a tough, male-chauvinist world, becomes a liar, cheat and murderess in pursuit of her goal, tasking her suitors to steal the queen’s jewels and then having them killed once they have returned with the haul of treasure. Yet even with the gold in their possession, the pair are not content, and so, true to form, Schreker turns his attention to the theme of yearning per se, which is the actual “treasure” that the composer is interested in, “a dream of happiness and redemption”. Elis and Els are caught up in a swirl of dreams, memories, premonitions, songs and music. Their stories take on a dreamlike quality in a world beset by greed, murder and emotional inconstancy. For Franz Schreker the path to redemption could only be via art. Composed during the turmoil of the First World War, the TREASURE HUNTER score amounts to Schreker’s personal confession of artistic faith, executed in florid strokes of late-Romantic musical colour.

Conductor Marc Albrecht; Staging Christof Loy; Set design Johannes Leiacker; Costume design Barbara Drosihn; With Tuomas Pursio, Doke Pauwels, Clemens Bieber, Michael Adams, Joel Allison, Michael Laurenz, Thomas Johannes Mayer, Seth Carico, Daniel Johansson, Gideon Poppe, Stephen Bronk, Elisabet Strid, Patrick Cook, Tyler Zimmerman a. o.; Chorus and Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin

Closing date: 2 December 2023, the winners will be informed by email on 4 December 2023. The DVDs will then be sent by post. Legal recourse is excluded.