GP at the Met: Nixon in China
About the Opera

The Metropolitan Opera’s premiere production of John Adams’ Nixon in China, conducted by the composer and staged by internationally acclaimed director Peter Sellars, will air in primetime on THIRTEEN’s Great Performances at the Met Wednesday, June 1 at 9:00 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings). In New York, THIRTEEN will present an encore broadcast on Sunday, June 5 at 12:30 p.m. The program was originally seen live in movie theaters on February 12, 2011 as part of the groundbreaking series, The Met: Live in HD, which transmits live performances to more than 1500 movie theaters and performing arts centers in 46 countries around the world.

The June 1 premiere broadcast of Nixon in China will immediately follow a new American Masters episode (8 p.m., check local listings) about the extraordinary career of Met Music Director James Levine.

Nixon in China stars James Maddalena as Richard Nixon, a role he created at the opera’s world premiere in 1987. With a libretto by American poet Alice Goodman, the opera is based on significant moments during President Nixon’s visit to China in February of 1972, with the key political figures as the lead characters: Nixon, first lady Pat Nixon (Janis Kelly) and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (Richard Paul Fink) for the Americans; Chairman Mao Tse-tung (Robert Brubaker), his wife Chiang Ch’ing (Kathleen Kim), and Premier Chou En-lai (Russell Braun) for the Chinese.

The Met’s production features the work of the world premiere production’s design team, including set designer Adrianne Lobel, costume designer Dunya Ramicova, lighting designer James F. Ingalls, and choreographer Mark Morris. Adams, Sellars, Goodman and Morris also collaborated on the opera The Death of Klinghoffer.

Adams, who has conducted his works with many major orchestras, makes his Met debut as conductor of Nixon in China; his opera Doctor Atomic had its Met premiere in 2008 and later aired on Great Performance at the Met.

Maddalena has sung Nixon on many of the world’s leading stages, including the English National Opera, Netherlands Opera, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Washington Opera, and the Théâtre du Châtelet. Kelly, who also starred with Maddalena in the recent English National Opera revival of the opera, made her Met debut as Pat Nixon. Kathleen Kim, who won critical plaudits for her Zerbinetta and Olympia in recent seasons, takes on the challenging coloratura role of Chiang Ch’ing, the forbidding and formidable wife of Mao Tse-tung. Brubaker has sung in many 20th-century works at the Met, including Moses und Aron, The Makropoulos Case, Peter Grimes, and the Met premiere of Busoni’s Doktor Faust. Braun is best-known to Met audiences for his Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Fink sang principal roles in the Met premieres of Adams’ Doctor Atomic and John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby.

Great Performances at the Met: Nixon in China was directed for the live HD transmission by Peter Sellars and hosted by Met baritone Thomas Hampson. Jay David Saks is the music producer. The performance is sung in English with subtitles.

Great Performances is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Irene Diamond Fund, Vivian Milstein, the Starr Foundation, the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, and Joseph A. Wilson. Corporate support for Great Performances at the Met is provided by Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home builder®. Additional funding for Great Performances at the Met: Nixon in China was provided by M. Beverly and Robert G. Bartner.

For the Met, Mia Bongiovanni and Elena Park are Supervising Producers, and Louisa Briccetti and Victoria Warivonchik are Producers. Peter Gelb is Executive Producer. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is Series Producer; David Horn is Executive Producer.

  • Mark

    This program is not listed in the lineup schedule. Has it been cancelled?

  • Other Mark

    It looks like it will be aired on June 19 on other PBS stations. That makes more sense because the Met Opera stuff is usually on Sunday, not Wednesday. I’ve already seen a portion of this performance and I was very impressed. I can’t wait to see the full thing!

  • Scott

    This opera is fantastic. I’m loving it!

  • Deborah

    Incredible – I loved it! Where can I get a DVD of this opera?
    I also saw Dr Atomic and loved that – have the DVD.
    The leads were superb – I loved Janis Kelly, Kathleen Kim, Russell Braun, Richard Paul Fink (Edward Teller in Dr Atomic – I recognized him immediately), and James Maddalena- he looks like Brezhnev (I thought it was funny when he said he “might be a Russian spy” – lots of subtle humor – and plenty of tragedy). I loved the score – sounds a lot like Phillip Glass. Wonderful psychological portraits of the main characters. Just great!

  • Sky Harbor

    I loved the original instrumental version by Adams… and even though I’m not a huge opera fan, I’m enjoying this a lot!

  • ray mojesky

    john adams composer did a great & most difficult job of creating this unusual opera. what is john adams background & what gave him the deire to do such a undertaking?

  • sgeuka

    fantastic! more adventurous programming like this please!

  • Turnus

    I, too, am very impressed with this production. Will it ever be available on DVD?

  • Honcho Hound

    Stunning production! Thank you pbs, for sharing!!!

  • J. Ford

    “Nixon in China” is a work no greater than the president who “inspired” it. Rave if you will, but this “minimalist” opera is maximally tedious and in the end has done little to liberate art music from the chimera of twentieth-century modernism beyond supplying a flimsy “post” to which the beast could be temporarily tethered.

    Monteverdi managed to make even Nero charming; Liszt invested Mephisto with seductive élan; but Adams’s Nixon is vocalized flatulence. Some might regard this as evidence of particularly apt musical characterization–but even Wagner’s bombastic protagonists are better than they sound.

    If you care to be reminded about the momentous historical consequences of Nixon’s opening trade relations with the communists, you’d do better to spend a few minutes in Walmart reading a random selection of product labels, on the vast majority of which the words “Made in China” effectively signify “Rest in Peace” for the once thriving American manufacturing work force. Are Chinese peasants better off now that they have the opportunity to work under sweatshop conditions in mephitic megalopolises that have sprung up like toadstools across the mainland? And what of the American workers whose jobs have been outsourced to communist China?

    It’s time to bury Nixon, not to raise him and his ignominious contemporaries from the dead, even in the dubious interest of stimulating mutually “profitable” Sino-American relations. I’m reminded of Tan Dun’s equally tedious spectacle, “The First Emperor,” featured during the Met’s 2006-2007 season and also broadcast by PBS–ostensibly another attempt, in a cultural guise, to forge bonds between an economically ascendant East and fiscally faltering West.

    China’s embrace of authoritarian capitalism, for which Nixon can take no small credit, will result only in the further subjugation of the Chinese people and the continuous creeping decline of American standards of living. Adams might have given us an opera that underscored the magnitude of that danger, or at least a distinctive cameo for the late Daniel Ellsberg. Instead we’re fed a Pu-pu platter of postmodern complexity and contradiction.

    One might reasonably ask, “What’s next for this composer–’Woody Woodpecker Does D.C.’?” Just imagine what a great opportunity that would be for Adams to further exploit those monomaniacal hammering sonorities and for Peter Sellars–with that over-the-top crest of his–to perform the starring role.

  • Calli

    I’m also looking for a dvd of this Great Performances program (for my husband for Father’s Day). Please let me know if/where you find it! Thanks.

  • Robert Perschmann

    I viewed this in Minnesota today on our independent PBS affiliate. It is a magnificent production. Having paid attention… quite closely in 1972 to the actual event, I welcomed the opera back in the 1980’s. I enjoyed the recording of that first version for years. Minnesota Opera did a very fine production a few years ago. How great it was to finally see such perfection on TV. Mark Morris contributed great choreography for today’s show and I loved Thomas Hampson as host. Probably the most satisfying opera interviews that I have ever seen. Peter Sellars was a riot and sharp as a tack. Adams was vibrant and joyful in the midst of the performance. It was an excellent gift to have this wonderful program delivered to my home in full HD video… and sound. I am amazed that I do not hear more joy from opera fans in regard to HD opera via PBS as well as Blu-ray disk. I don’t think there is a better way to promote arts in America. We don’t have a full tax supported television service like BBC… that nurtures our citizens. PBS does a great job considering the right wing flak that flies. The right wing prefers mass pop culture to distract people rather than art that may cause people to think. Another fantastic element in today’s show was the great close up acting. Especially, I thought that our Pat Nixon was spectacular on that front.

  • baosheng, zhu

    I live in Peoria,IL. Can you tell me when the Peoria local pbs will present this opera. And if this opera has a DVD, where can I buy it.
    Thank you.
    bsz 6-22-2011

  • Not Impressed

    The concept of a modern opera based on (somewhat) recent headlines is very bold, but unfortunately, unlistenable. That’s one DVD I won’t be buying.

  • Della LeMire

    Hopefully this will air again this year as I missed the first half. Is it on the schedule?

  • david ernst

    Hi Della,

    GP at the Met: Nixon in China is from last year’s season. Your local station may elect to re-air the program if they so choose, but it’s more likely that you’ll see opera programming from this year’s season.

    Thank you for your question.

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