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Nixon in China [CASSETTE] [Import]

J. Adams Audio Cassette
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Audio Cassette (16 April 1995)
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Elektra / Wea
  • ASIN: B00000EONQ
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,646,825 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Listenable yet challenging minimalist opera 21 Dec 2000
Format:Audio CD
The interesting thing about "Nixon in China" is that, in spite of its subject matter being historical, it is not an historical opera. Both John Adams, the composer, and Alice Goodman, its librettist, described it as an heroic opera. The aim was to find a new mythology for a modern generation: in Adams' terms, most people have to learn who Odysseus was from books, but speak of Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin or Richard Nixon and everyone knows who you are talking about -- and these names have faces and personalities ready-attached.
The aim of the opera seems to have been to take an event -- Richard Nixon's (remarkable) visit to China in 1972, and to present it as a human drama. I think it succeeds in this very well. We see a rarely glimpsed sympathetic side to Nixon, particularly in dialogue with his wife Pat, herself a key player in the opera, seeming to represent Nixon's idealism. Mao-Tse-Tung is enigmatic, but again, we see a side of him not usually seen in the West -- less of the noble statesman and more of the man-in-the-street. Kissinger is a delightful (though rather sinister) buffoon, and Chiang Ch'ing (madame Mao) is formidable and terrifying (much as she was in the "cultural revolution" then in progress).
For me, though, the most interesting character is Chou-En-Lai, the premier. More taciturn than Mao, yet still powerful, he is a perfect gentleman with a sinister side, even to himself. It is this self-doubt and self-examination which, to me, makes him so fascinating.
As far as I know this is the first and only recording of the work, and although mostly excellent I think some of the changes of time-signature are not handled completely smoothly. This will no doubt be rectified in later recordings.
I would reccomend this to anyone who enjoys the exciting and the new in music.
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4 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not at all sure about this 5 May 2008
By Aquinas
Format:Audio CD
There is a lot of energy in Adam's music but I am never quite sure whether it is up to much; I have never really got into this opera - its less memorable than "Klinghoffer" albiet less static; I accept that this may be a failing on my part.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best new opera of the last fifty years 5 Oct 2000
By Jay Dickson - Published on Amazon.com
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. Duykers does seems out of his league somewhat as Mao T'se-tung--the role should be sung without effort and with great beauty of tone (to show that Mao's body may be failing him but his mind and spirit are as strong as ever), but Duykers is not the heldentenor of one's dreams. Still, this is--all in all-- a superb recording of a superb opera.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dont miss this recording 29 July 2000
By Dr. M. Hogg - Published on Amazon.com
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.
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important American Heroic Opera 12 April 2001
By Christopher Beecroft - Published on Amazon.com
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.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabu 22 Nov 2005
By N. A. Bowden - Published on Amazon.com
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.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Major Operatic Addition 17 Jan 2001
By Daniel G. Berk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This is the opera that changed 20th century opera, among other things, making operatic characters out of Nixon and Mao. It is extremely well-crafted and appears to be the high water mark of the compositions of John Adams. It certainly deserves a place in any music library that calls itself significant.
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