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John Adams: Nixon in China (The Metropolitan Opera HD Live) (DVD+Blu-Ray)

4.5 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Nonesuch Records presents the Metropolitan Opera s performance of John Adams Nixon in China, with the composer conducting, on Blu-ray and DVD together in one package. The Met s production, staged by Adams longtime collaborator Peter Sellars, stars James Maddalena as Richard Nixon, a role he created at the opera s world premiere in 1987 and has since performed at international leading opera houses, including the English National Opera, Netherlands Opera, and Brooklyn Academy of Music. Nixon in China was recorded and broadcast live in movie theaters around the world as part of The Met: Live in HD on February 12, 2011 10 days after the opera received its Met premiere.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: James Maddalena, Janis Kelly, Robert Brubaker, Kathleen Kim, Russell Braun
  • Directors: Peter Sellars
  • Writers: John Adams, Alice Goodman
  • Producers: The Metropolitan Opera, Peter Gelb
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Nonesuch
  • DVD Release Date: November 19, 2012
  • Run Time: 177 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B009FB3YE4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,127 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alfredo R. Villanueva on December 11, 2012
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This opera is the best and the most important of the XXth Century and the history of American opera, period. Everything comes together for what Mallarmé once called "the
Total work of Art"--the perfect fusing of poetry, narrative, music, dance, staging and cinematography. Adams himself of the podium, The Dean (or Prima Donna Assoluta) of stage directors,Peter Sellers; the best opera chorus in the world; and a cast of incomparable performers (James Maddalena created the role in 1987 and still performs it--and watch Katheleen Kim as Madame Mao!) and dancers, the best staging I have ever seen in an opera house; an a libretto made up of the most poetic lines ever to be uttered by singers . . . . And then, humane, incisive, tender treatment of some of the century's greatest political monsters, revealing their shared humanity beneath their public masks (Janis Kelly is simply heartbreaking as Pat Nixon). I already own Klingshoffer and Dr. Atomicus. Now, if i could only find Ahknaton (Glass, not Adams) on DVD!
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Let me admit up front: I'm a *huge* fan of both John Adams in general and this opera in particular. Alice Goodman's libretto is a work of art in itself, to say nothing of the music that accompanies the words. That it has taken 25 years for this work to appear on DVD (or any video recording) is almost obscene, but here we are (finally!).

First, one of the negatives: James Maddalena's Nixon is audibly tired. Perhaps I'm used to his younger voice from the first CD recording, but throughout he sounds a bit underpowered. Nevertheless, he's an old pro, having created the role at the 1987 Houston premiere, so it's hard to be too critical. A real asset, as he discusses in one of the intermissions, is that his vast experience affords him the chance to continually refine and revise the role. It is a clear labor of love for Maddalena, something he communicates well.

Robert Brubaker's Chairman Mao is nearly heroic: capturing Mao's complex personality--bullying and menacing in one moment, waxing philosophical the next--is a tricky task indeed. Brubaker's versatile voice communicates this wide-ranging persona quite effectively. One of my favorite moments is Adams's beautiful vocal writing for Mao ("We cried 'Long live the ancestors' once..."). Brubaker really does it justice--much more satisfying (imo) than Marc Heller's heavy-handed bellowing on the recent Colorado Symphony disc set.

Janis Kelly (Pat Nixon) and Russell Braun (Chou En-Lai) are worthy co-stars, but I found them both a bit over the top at isolated moments. Kelly's strong voice overpowers some of Goodman's more delicate writing...strictly an opinion. Braun also tended to bring a great deal of brawn at times when a slightly more subtle approach ("The Chairman means the dead!") might have been preferable.
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In February of 1972, President Nixon's plane landed in China. I went to a middle of the night dinner party to celebrate. The little black & white TV was on the table with the food. I was the youngest at the table. Of all the friends, at the party, except sleeping children... I think I am the only surviver. I'll just say that it's me, and Henry Kissinger who live on. It was a very big event in my life. About 15 years later John Adams and Peter Sellars had developed the opera. There have been many performances all over the world. I listened to a recording. Last year the Metropolitan Opera broadcast Nixon in China with John Adams conducting. I loved the PBS High Definition broadcast. This blu-ray disc is that performance. A DVD copy is included with the blu-ray. Since 1987, I have been singing "Smooo-oooth," and "News, news, news." Yes, everyone wonders.... I have never encountered another human who sings those hits, off stage. But, that is your loss dear friends.

I will describe this "show" for folks less excited than I am about the history, and the composer that I have loved for 25 years. The disc is excellent. I have come to love the Met just in the years since the HD broadcasts have been delivered to me by PBS. The disc image quality is perfect, slightly better than the broadcast. It helps to have the menu control so that I can show my favorite parts to friends. I will buy every blu-ray of a Met performance that is offered. I'm also in the middle of the Wagner Ring that just came out. (Fantastic).

What a way to deliver history. I intend to give my teen aged grandchildren the lesson. Oh, I spare them the... length by presenting a "best of" experience. I'll talk it up with my stories of the time.
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superlative!

I am neither a music critic nor educated in the subject.

That said: here is music; a production; character drawing (except for the over the top and unfairly drawn Kissinger); of a modern historical event.

It kept me glued and involved.
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It was fun to see this opera come to life after being familiar with it on CD. Certainly it makes the experience more emotional on both ends; the humor and wit are much clearer, as are the darker and sadder elements of change and loss.

Peter Sellars, who directed the stage production also guided the filming during a live performance. Sellars relies a great deal on close-ups, only going to wide shots occasionally. I found this surprising, and occasionally annoying, since his own careful theatrical visual compositions get cheated in the process. Also, extreme close-ups are not the most forgiving way of seeing stage wigs and make-up. On the other hand, it was nice to really be able to see the emotions on the singers' faces, and to realize what good actors most of them are. Even though they're playing in a large theater, most are subtle enough that these tight shots don't reveal tremendous over-acting, and give the opera a wonderfully intimate feel. Since a lot of the emotional drama of this opera is really internal, especially for both Richard and Pat Nixon, this close-up approach emphasizes the human as opposed to the spectacular, to strong effect.

On second viewing, the constant close ups seemed even more problematic. It struck me that much of what's going on in the opera is about the counterpoint in simultaneous 'conversations' and interactions. You might have Pat and Richard Nixon on one side of the stage, and Chairman Mao and his wife on the other. Or multiple groups at once in the 'big' scenes, all singing right over each other, 3 and 4 stories occurring simultaneously. But by relying so much on close ups and tight 2 shots, we lose some of the juxtapositions built into the music and staging.
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