Nixon in China (the Opera)

President Richard M. Nixon, who practically based his long political career on being staunchly anti-communist, began the long process of Chinese-American rapprochement with his historic visit to what was then known in this country as “Red China” in February of 1972.  The United States still was fighting communism in Vietnam when Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger alit in Beijing, then referred to on these shores as “Peking.”

That landmark visit is the subject of the opera, Nixon in China , which had its debut in Houston in 1987, and has been put on in many venues since then. The latest production of the landmark opera, composed by John Adams with a libretto by Alice Goodman and produced by Peter Sellars, opened on February 2 at New York’s Metropolitan Opera , and continues through February 19.

The Met is planning a broadcast of the three hour and forty minute opera to some 600 movie theaters across the country on Saturday, February 12. A PBS broadcast is slated for later this year.

The Vietnam War is only touched on in Nixon in China. At one point, Nixon, performed at the Met by James Maddalena, muses on the long, strange trip that resulted in him dining with Chairman Mao. For that to take place, Nixon says, he had to vault over “the bodies of our lost” from the Vietnam War.


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