Nixon in China was a real WOW experience. I loved the orchestral music and I think you would have, too. The composer is John Adams, written in 1986-87, in a very minimalist style, really great. It would have two rhythms going on at the same time sometimes, there were tunes every once in a while to go with the action onstage, it was very stylized in parts (they would repeat a word or phrase over and over in a staccato kind of way). I loved the daring “new” music in the old form: opera.
All the characters were so good, Dick and Pat Nixon were done so well. She had a large part, telling about her life and how she felt on this trip to China. Chairman Mao is there as an old man who speaks philosophically with quotes from “The Little Red Book” while Nixon is trying to talk about world issues. Henry Kissinger is there, also Mme. Mao who is a mean little thing; she is involved in the arts, particularly dance, and she produces these ballets that are enactments of communist themes – really awful. The first act was very literal – about a big meeting of all parties at a state dinner, etc.
The second act was somewhat surreal as the Nixons watch a ballet where they are punishing and whipping this skinny little Chinese lady, and Pat N. can’t stand it, and gets involved in the ballet and tells the character to stop hurting the girl, then Dick gets involved. It’s very bizarre and cool. Oh, and Richard Paul Fink, one of our favorite singers, plays Henry Kissinger. This singer in different, scary garb was a villain in the drama!
The third act shows a row of beds, one for each main character. Each is there in the privacy of their bedroom, and it shows what they are thinking, doing, in their private moments. What a great idea. Dick is telling Pat some war stories, saying I haven’t always told you everything. Then, he tells a story, and she says, you’ve already told me that. Haha! Just like a real long-married couple. She’s heard it all before.
I have to mention the incredibly poetic and beautiful libretto of Alice Goodman – it was a wonder. She added a large dollop of art to events that many of us lived through. It lifts these events out of the every day.
To quote another fan of Nixon in China, Opera Betty, “I am taking down my Donny Osmond poster and replacing it with one of John Adams.” Amen to that!