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John Adams's "Nixon in China" Makes San Francisco Opera Debut; Atlanta Symphony Performs "A Flowering Tree"

John Adams: "Nixon in China" [2011 cover]
John Adams's first opera, Nixon in China, featuring a libretto by Alice Goodman, makes its San Francisco Opera debut tonight at the War Memorial Opera House, the opening night of the Opera's Summer Season and the first of seven performances of Adams's piece. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the landmark work and the 40th anniversary of the events it depicts: President Richard Nixon's visit to China in February of 1972. This production, which premiered at the Vancouver Opera for the 2010 Cultural Olympiad, is helmed by director Michael Cavanagh, with conductor Lawrence Renes at the podium, and features performances from Brian Mulligan as Richard Nixon, Maria Kayova as Pat Nixon, Simon O'Neill as Mao Tse-Tung, Hye June Lee as Madam Mao, Chen-Ye Yuan as Chou En-Lai, and Patrick Carfizzi as Henry Kissinger.

The San Francisco Chronicle's music critic Joshua Kosman, in a preview of the performances, says: "Nixon thrives in its transcendent vantage point, examining and illuminating the meeting of empires as if from some future retrospective. It's a viewpoint that only becomes deeper and more valuable with every passing year." Read the article at

Adams spoke with the San Jose Mercury News writer Richard Scheinin about Nixon in China, the inspiration behind it, the impact it has had in the 25 years since its premiere, and much more; read the extensive interview at And see below for a preview of the production, featuring excerpts of some of the opera's most memorable moments. For additional details and tickets, go to

Also this weekend, John Adams' latest opera, A Flowering Tree, will be performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, led by music director Robert Spano, at Atlanta Symphony Hall Saturday night. All three principal performers who originated the roles and are featured on the 2008 Nonesuch first-recording of the piece—soprano Jessica Rivera, tenor Russel Thomas, and bass-baritone Eric Owens—reprise their roles in this Theater of a Concert staging in Atlanta. For details, go to

To coincide with last year's Metropolitan Opera premiere of Nixon in China, Nonesuch Records reissued the Grammy-winning recording of the 1987 original cast in a newly redesigned and specially-priced three-CD set (pictured above), featuring a 68-page booklet with the complete libretto and new notes, along with the original liner notes by librettist Alice Goodman and by the late Michael Steinberg, which the Los Angeles Times described as "a revelation." That recording is available in the Nonesuch Store, as is the 2008 recording of A Flowering Tree.

Preview the San Francisco production of Nixon in China here:


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