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nixon in china LP

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Vinyl
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: NONESUCH
  • ASIN: B00400SUJO
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Audio Cassette  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,520,295 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This never fails to send shivers down my spine.
My love of John Adams started with a hearing of the short suite taken from this opera 'The Chairman Dances' and has grown and grown.
There are some serious rock moments and a few Wagnerian nods in here for such a classic piece of 'minimalism' and I do find it a lot easier on the ear than 'The Death of Klinghoffer'.
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Format: Audio CD
One of the great post-War operas, brilliantly played and recorded.
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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: HASH(0x9ab54d80) out of 5 stars 24 reviews
60 of 64 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ab6b918) 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.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ab6b96c) 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.
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ae58378) 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.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ab6be34) out of 5 stars fantastic libretto explaining a great historical moment 8 Oct. 2007
By simpcity - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I love the opera, although the beginning is more lyrical than the end.

When Nixon arrived in Beijing, he did not even know if he would meet Mao. Then, when the Spirit of 76 sets down and Chou meets him, Nixon's excitement over his presence on the stage of world history takes over. He explodes into song: "It's primetime in the USA. It's yesterday night. It's yesterday night." At his hotel, worry returns. Nixon's paranoid self takes over; no one appreciates what he does. But then, Mao calls. Right on his arrival he is to meet Mao.

Mao and Nixon hit it off. Nixon wants to talk politics; Mao prefers philosophy. Each anticipates the moves of the other. They praise each other's books. Mao gets blunt. China is sick of poverty. He "wants to hear the sound of industry blown on the wind." Dams, textile factories, construction cranes. Sometimes, Mao says, the left-wingers are fascist. The gang of four, you mean? says Nixon. No. Mao is speaking generally; he just likes right-wingers. Mao's song, oddly predicting world history after the opera is written, is entitled "Founders Come First, Then Profiteers."

Then Nixon and Chou meet at the Great Hall of the People for the banquet. Chou begins his toast, one of the more lyrical moments of the opera. "From Vision to Inheritance" -- the legacy of the Maoists! We have united the land and brought peace to our land, and we are at peace with the world. Now, we wish to join hands with the Americans and build a rich powerful China. Then the drinking begins! An ecstasis! This drinking song is better than the ones in Wozzeck or Carmina Burana.

And that is just Act 1.

Act 2 brings us modern housewife Pat Nixon and flamboyent Chiang Ching. Mrs. Nixon is taken by the Chinese peasantry. She gets to see the pigs. She reminisces about her farm life. She sees rural China as a beautiful place for a picnic. She understands that this is the beginning of peace, that the trip is a massive success. Chiang Ching stages her competing Red Ballet. The martial music from the overture returns. Is the play history or reality?

Finally, Act 3 brings us 'the morning after.' History is finished with our men and women leaders of America and China. They are passing from the world stage. They have lived for that moment. Romantic moments there have been -- cooking burgers for pilots in the South Pacific, life in the Yenan caves, making it in a Washington apartment on a military paycheck, the Long March, being strafed by a zero in the midst of a rain storm, making revolution.

With Nixon in China, you get great music, great biography and great history. Our entire present era of world prosperity is a result of the events surrounding Nixon's visit to China, opening up the Generation of Peace about which he spoke. Mao's vision of a modern China, where Confucious is dead and where the sounds of industry are borne on the winds. has come true.

An mythmaking moment turned in to Great Opera, with a killer academic, well-researched libretto. A world-uniting opera with Chiang Ching's 'opera within an opera.' (And give that third act some time to grow on you.)
Great art work on the jewel box.
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