30 years after Nixon in China, not much hope left

30 years after Nixon in China, not much hope left


norman lebrecht

December 25, 2016

Houston Grand Opera are bringing back John Adams’s Nixon in China, which they premiered in 1987.

It seemed to mark a breakthrough, both political and creative. A style of news-headline opera was launched.

But the genre has enjoyed few comparable successes, and US relations with China are frosting over.

From the Houston Grand Opera press release:


A dramatization of President Richard Nixon’s historic 1972 visit to China that ended decades of isolation from the West, John Adams’s first opera, with a libretto by Alice Goodman and staging by Peter Sellars, broke new ground with its visceral portrayal of relatively recent world events and its bold departures in musical style and instrumentation. The Houston production was televised on PBS’s Great Performances and recorded the same year; the broadcast won an Emmy Award and the recording won a Grammy in 1988. Since then, Nixon in China has been produced worldwide and has become one of the most performed among operas of our time.



  • Steve P says:

    China can look forward to negotiating trade with someone who knows how to actually read a contract. Good luck screwing the US for a while. In the meantime, try and work on human rights since you’ll have a few disgruntled workers on your hands.
    Merry Christmas!

  • PaulD says:

    Oddly enough, it has not been performed by the Washington National Opera. You’d think it would be a natural thing to do.