John Adams: Nixon in China

( 1 )

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Eddins
The exemplary 1988 Nonesuch release of Nixon in China, with Edo de Waart leading the Orchestra of St. Luke's, with members of the original cast, is iconic for fans of the opera, but a new recording is likely to offer a fresh take on the piece. Naxos' version, with Marin Alsop conducting a live performance with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, is a welcome addition to the catalog. On Nonesuch, Carolann Page did a good job suggesting Pat Nixon's fragility, but she was the cast's weakest link. Her vocal limitations were painfully obvious, and the listener was left with the feeling, in moments like Pat's great aria, "This is prophetic," that there was much more to the music ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Eddins
The exemplary 1988 Nonesuch release of Nixon in China, with Edo de Waart leading the Orchestra of St. Luke's, with members of the original cast, is iconic for fans of the opera, but a new recording is likely to offer a fresh take on the piece. Naxos' version, with Marin Alsop conducting a live performance with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, is a welcome addition to the catalog. On Nonesuch, Carolann Page did a good job suggesting Pat Nixon's fragility, but she was the cast's weakest link. Her vocal limitations were painfully obvious, and the listener was left with the feeling, in moments like Pat's great aria, "This is prophetic," that there was much more to the music than what she was able to convey. Here, Maria Kanyova is superbly secure as Pat, singing with a rounded, glowing tone. Trudy Ellen Craney as Madame Mao was also problematic, and while Tracy Dahl doesn't sound as strained in the stratospheric role, her voice is small, and this is a part that cries out for a big, thrilling coloratura soprano. Robert Orth's Nixon here isn't always as vocally smooth as James Maddalena's, but he brings to the role an idiosyncratic vehemence and social awkwardness that feel more urgently and authentically Nixonian; this performance makes it sound like Richard Nixon is the role he was born to play. Orth and Kanyova offer the strongest reasons to check out this new recording. Marc Heller's Mao Tse-tung is vocally more solid, heroic, and altogether more attractive than John Duykers', but less quirky and dramatically engaging. Sanford Sylvan's warm and radiant Chou En-lai was a highlight of the original version; his first-act aria, "Ladies and gentlemen, Comrades and friends," was transcendently serene, and "I am old and cannot sleep," brought the opera to a luminous, hauntingly autumnal close. Chen-Ye Yuan manages Chou's music, but his voice is somewhat rough and his interpretation undistinguished. Thomas Hammons reprises his role as Henry Kissinger, and his characterization is significantly more vivid and sharply etched here. The Colorado Symphony Orchestra's tone is leaner than that of Orchestra of St. Luke's, and lacks their warmth and rounded blend. The second scene of the second act, a performance of a revolutionary ballet in which Kissinger is an actor, is so peculiar that it's hard to imagine it making much sense even in the very best of circumstances. De Waart at least keeps thing moving along at an energetic clip, so that you aren't left with time to try to puzzle out what is going on, but Alsop's handling is not only perplexing, it's inert, and certainly the low point of the new recording. Alsop otherwise keeps up the momentum the score requires, and the third act is lovely, lyrical, and lovingly shaped. In the first two acts, though, the transitions between sections, which are genuinely tricky to pull off, frequently sound awkward and abrupt, where de Waart was able to create a seamless and inexorable flow. The sound of Naxos' live recording doesn't come close to the sumptuousness of Nonesuch's version. It's shallower, overall, and the orchestra sounds less integrated. The voices lack the consistent ringing resonance that made the Nonesuch release outstanding. The live audience, though, adds something; its laughter particularly in Pat's tour of the Chinese countryside is a reminder that the opera is, in fact, a comedy and has moments that are very funny. While it is not likely to displace the first recording in the hearts and ears of Nixon fans, Naxos' version offers some very fine performances and is one that true devotees of the opera are likely to want to hear.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 10/27/2009
  • Label: Naxos American
  • UPC: 730099902274
  • Catalog Number: 8669022-24
  • Sales rank: 20,433

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1–41 Nixon in China, opera - John Adams & Marin Alsop (153:27)
    Composed byJohn Adams
    Conducted byMarin Alsop
    Performed byMarin Alsop, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Tracy Dahl, Robert Orth, Julie Simson, Thomas Hammons, Mark Heller, Jennifer DeDominici, Douglas Kinney Frost, Maria Kanyova, Melissa Malde, Opera Colorado Chorus, Chen-Ye Yuan
    1. 1Act 1. Scene 1. Beginning
    2. 2Act 1. Scene 1. Soldiers of Heaven Hold the Sky
    3. 3Act 1. Scene 1. The People Are the Heroes Now
    4. 4Act 1. Scene 1. Landing of the Spirit of '76
    5. 5Act 1. Scene 1. Your Flight Was Smooth, I Hope?
    6. 6Act 1. Scene 1. News Has a Kind of Mystery
    7. 7Act 1. Scene 2. Beginning
    8. 8Act 1. Scene 2. You Know We'll Meet with Your Confrère, The Democratic Candidate
    9. 9Act 1. Scene 2. You've Said That There's a Certain Well-known Tree
    10. 10Act 1. Scene 2. Founders Come First, then Profiteers
    11. 11Act 1. Scene 2. We No Longer Need Confucius
    12. 12Act 1. Scene 2. Like the Ming Tombs
    13. 13Act 1. Scene 3. Beginning
    14. 14Act 1. Scene 3. Ladies and Gentlemen, Comrades and Friends
    15. 15Act 1. Scene 3. Mr. Premier, Distinguished Guests
    16. 16Act 1. Scene 3. Cheers!
    17. 17Act 2. Scene 1. Beginning
    18. 18Act 2. Scene 1. Look Down at the Earth
    19. 19Act 2. Scene 1. This Is Prophetic!
    20. 20Act 2. Scene 1. At Last the Weather's Warming Up
    21. 21Act 2. Scene 2. Beginning
    22. 22Act 2. Scene 2. Oh What a Day I Thought I'd Die!
    23. 23Act 2. Scene 2. Whip Her to Death!
    24. 24Act 2. Scene 2. Tropical Storm
    25. 25Act 2. Scene 2. Flesh Rebels
    26. 26Act 2. Scene 2. I Have My Brief
    27. 27Act 2. Scene 2. It Seems So Strange
    28. 28Act 2. Scene 2. I Am The Wife of Mao Tse-tung
    29. 29Act 3. Beginning
    30. 30Act 3. Some Men You Cannot Satisfy
    31. 31Act 3. I Am No One
    32. 32Act 3. The Maos Dance
    33. 33Act 3. Sitting Around The Radio
    34. 34Act 3. Let Us Examine What You Did
    35. 35Act 3. When I Woke Up I Dimly Realized The Jap Bombers Had Given Us A Miss...
    36. 36Act 3. I Have No Offspring
    37. 37Act 3. I Can Keep Still
    38. 38Act 3. After That The Sweat Had Soaked My Uniform
    39. 39Act 3. Peking Watches The Stars
    40. 40Act 3. You Won at Poker
    41. 41Act 3. I Am Old and I Cannot Sleep
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Robert Orth Primary Artist
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    Nixon in China

    Nixon in China starts us off like any good Greek tragedy would. with a haunting scene of war and poverty. In this case, the scene is set by the very capable Opera Colorado Chorus. Other tracks are equally ominous as though they came straight from a thriller flick. The historical aspect of the opera is very enjoyable, yet it maintains a very human element throughout in the relationships between the characters. From business to diplomacy to romance, it's all covered. The language and subject matter is intense at times, but authentic. Composer John Adams makes wonderful use of the libretto, both forceful and mundane, to weave a consistent tapestry of sound. One of the more lighthearted moments is also one of the first things that caught my ear. Premier Chou En-lai asks President Nixon about his flight. Nixon's response is "Smooth.", but the music jokes otherwise. It's witty and it's honest. Conductor Marin Alsop and singers bring the music to life and help the whole piece strike a nice balance between history and modernity. If you enjoy modern music and are looking for something new, this would be a great addition to your collection.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews