Thursday, June 21, 2012

'Nixon' Gets My Vote:
Magnificent SF Opera Production

My introduction to the John Adams opera "Nixon in China" was at a dress rehearsal at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1987. Before the rehearsal began, the director Peter Sellars from the orchestra addressed the small audience in the mezzanine. He asked for our indulgence with any glitches, and there were a few, and promised us a fantastic musical journey full of discovery and pleasure.

Twenty-five years later after Sellars more than delivered on his promises, I'm happy to say after seeing the new production last week at the San Francisco Opera that "Nixon in China" is still giving me deep pleasures.

The most enjoyable part of the production was hearing the captivating music performed with verve by the San Francisco Opera company's orchestra. It will be impossible for me to listen to the CD recording in the future without thinking how much better the score and lyrics sounded live at the War Memorial Opera House.

All of singers sounded wonderful belting out Alice Goodman's libretto, but two deserve special attention, Brian Mulligan as Richard Nixon and Hye Jung Lee as Madame Mao Tse-Tung. Mulligan's handling of the "News Has a Kind of Mystery" song was impressive, while Lee had me cheering after she brilliantly terrified and thrilled the audience delivering the "I Am the Wife of Chairman Mao" aria, pictured.

The production is magnificent and heightens the history and grandeur of every scene unfolding on the stage, but never overwhelms the lead singers or chorus and supers. I'm so full of awe and enjoyment from this "Nixon in China" that I hope to see once more before performances end.

My friend Todd Swindell saw the show with me and was equally bowled over by every aspect of the production. He too is a big fan of the opera and thought the highlight was Lee with her aria.

Click here for info on the four remaining performances this season and how to purchase tickets.

(Photos courtesy of SF Opera. Credit: Cory Weaver.)

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