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Adams: Nixon in China

4.4 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

This is a reissue of the Grammy Award Winning recording of Nixon in China. The 1988 Grammy Award Winner, John Adams, describes this landmark as "part epic, part satire, part parody of political posturing, and part serious examination of historical, philosophical, and even gender issues." The Boston Globe called the Grammy-winning 1987 work "a milestone in American operatic history." This first recording, featuring the original cast, says Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed, "has an eloquence not since matched, with terrific packaging and Michael Steinberg's program notes, which really are a revelation."

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Digital Booklet: Nixon In China
Digital Booklet: Nixon In China
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Product Details

  • Performer: Trudy Ellen Craney, Marion Dry, John Duykers, Stephanie Friedman, Thomas Hammons, et al.
  • Conductor: Edo de Waart
  • Composer: John Adams
  • Audio CD (February 1, 2011)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B000005IYW
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,052 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jay Dickson VINE VOICE on October 5, 2000
Format: Audio CD
There just hasn't been an opera of this intelligence or this sophistication written anywhere in the last half-century. Adams and Goodman make a thrilling and effective equation between what opera and political summits both do in their different ways: make the quotidian seem "larger than life" (to quote Nixon from his opening aria).
There's much to say about the technical sophistication of the work: the dense and rewarding allusiveness of Goodman's beautiful libretto, for example, or the wonderful ways in which Adams uses the repetitiveness of the minimalist mode for psychological purposes (such as Nixon's nervousness, Pat's near-hysteria, and Madame Mao's violent dogmatism). This production is quite fine, and enjoys a definitive Nixon in the person of James Maddalena, who makes the character by turns triumphant, clumsy, paranoid, tender, and poignant--just as we remember the real Richard Nixon. There are few more beautifully pillowy baritones than Sanford Sylvan, and he found the part of his career in Chou En-lai, the subtle and valiant Chinese premier: Chou's splendid first-act aria "Ladies and Gentlemen, Comrades and Friends" is the emotional heart of the opera, and Sylvan does it full justice. Carolann Page is a moving and heroic Pat Nixon, and does a superlative job with Pat's big scene in the second act (the most enigmatic but also touching part of the entire opera--in part because it moves towards the margins of the masculine political world elsewhere portrayed).
Of the leads, John Duykers and Trudy Ellen Craney fare perhaps less well than the others. Craney's tessitura is not entirely pleasant, yet nonetheless her spikiness well suits the part of the fiercely doctrinaire Chiang Ch'ing quite well.
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Format: Audio CD
When i went to see the recent English National Opera production of Nixon in China I went with a sense of mild curiosity and an expectation that i would be completely bored stupid by about halfway through the first act. Instead i left gushing with excitement and rushed out to get hold of a copy as soon as possible. For those of you unfamiliar with Adams, he differs a bit from other minimalists in that he is actually just an old fashioned romantic with modern trappings. Hence lots of tunes, lush harmonies and mainly tonal music. Even reminders of Richard Strauss. The minimalism serves just to make it all quite rhythmically driven. In this recording all the main parts are strongly cast. Even though Chairman Mao's wife is a little fluttery, she manages the high tessitura and awkward intervals of her showstealing act 2 aria with ease. Both of the Nixons feel at home in their parts.The Chinese premier phrases beautifully. The recording is well balanced and the performance solidly conducted, although occasionally a little more drive might have been in order. Overall this is an excellent recording of an opera that is infrequently performed and unjustly neglected. Listen to the seamless progression of big tunes during the act 2 ballet and you will be a convert to the cause.
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Format: Audio CD
Nixon in China is a Heroic opera that has not lost its edge and beauty in the years since it was written. The music and words are finely crafted and bring out many of the emotions of wonder, hope, and self-doubt that one can imagine the Nixons, the Chinese, and the Americans went through during the historic visit to China. The music has a minimalist bent to it, but it is so much more than that. The Opera is lyrical, tuneful, and quite memorable. The singing is near perfect and well balanced between soloists. Librettist Alice Goodman created a wonderful text that is rich with poetry and imagery and simply inpired in parts. Chou En-lai's scenes (Ladies And Gentlemen, Comrades And Friends & I Am Old And I Cannot Sleep) contain music of supreme beauty and reflection. There are great arias by Nixon (Richard and Pat), Mao Tse-Tung, and Henry Kissinger that also deserve mention (but for brevity. The only thing sadly missing is the staging, which served well to heighten the work. The music and text is still fresh and current. I highly recommend what will eventually be recognized as one of the great operas of the 20th century.
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By N. A. Bowden on November 22, 2005
Format: Audio CD
I understand why opera lovers would call this minimalist. In the context of opera as a whole it is minimal, thankfully if you ask me. However, viewed in relation to modern music it is very full and sonically beautiful. Compared to Beeson's "Lizzie Borden" etc. "Nixon in China" is an homage to classic opera.

The libretto is stunningly brilliant. It gets enough attention so I won't add anything here.

The music is lyrical and addictive. You will find yourself whistling, humming or just full out singing it outloud while walking down the street. The first time you listen to it you will be completely hooked from the very beginning and be in full on gush mode by the end of Nixon's "News" aria at the end of the very first scene.

I won't mention this recording too much. Could it be better? Yes. I am simply desperate for a DVD version like the other Adams operas "el Nino" and "Death of Klingenhoffer." But US residents shouldn't complain since I paid double the price here in the Netherlands.

In the end "Nixon in China" basically uses every trick in the opera bag. It will definitely be an opera that lasts. Ten years after I heard it for the first time it is just as crisp and addictive as before.

Lastly. On a complete side note. I've heard excerpts of "Nixon in China" in the "Civilizations IV" computer game as the background music to the modern era.
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