Preview: Scottish Opera – Nixon In China

Nixon In China Scottish Opera


There is an old adage that there are two sides to every story, and then there’s the truth. From Richard “I’m not a crook” Nixon to Donald “no collusion” Trump, the eye of the media, and therefore the world, has affected political diplomacy in the modern media era of easy access.

Combining political caricature with humanity, Nixon in China explores the historical, ideological and psychological, whilst John Adams’ score fuses electronic pre-recordings, jazz notes and 1930s big band swing with classical opera elements, which results in an entertaining and enticing exploration of the men, their wives and how memory and ego can contrast fact.

Featuring fascinating archive footage from the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum and The Richard Nixon Foundation, the opera is as much about the private moments as the public photo opportunities during the historically significant first visit by a President of the USA to communist China in 1972.

The premiere in 1987 was a turning point in contemporary opera, in a collaboration initiated by director Peter Sellars which brought together the expressive, genre-crossing rhythms of Adam’s compositions and Alice Goodman’s enigmatic libretto.

While the events illustrated took place almost 50 years ago, the relevance for contemporary audiences on both a political and cultural level is still significant, as crass calculations of international politics and the hunger of hugely misguided leaders seeking justification is still prevalent, given the visibility of current relations between China and the USA paired with an even more cynical public.

The meeting of Mao and Nixon was diplomatic theatre, and arguably no art form is better suited to momentous spectacle than opera, allowing an opportunity to showcase historic players in a drama that can be treated seriously yet still allow for plenty of absurd humour.

Director John Fulljames explains; ‘Nixon is a hero of Verdian complexity. Although the events of the President’s 1972 visit to China have passed into history, this tale of the staging of global politics at the birth of the live media age feels more potent than ever, with a great team to stage this myth about the ultimate powerlessness of the most powerful people in the world.’

Scottish Opera’s premiere staging is a major new co-production with The Royal Danish Theatre and
Teatro Real Madrid, starring Eric Greene as Richard Nixon and Mark Le Brocq as Mao Tse-tung.

It premieres at Theatre Royal Glasgow on Tuesday 18th, Thursday 20th and Saturday 22nd February, then transfers to Festival Theatre Edinburgh on Thursday 27th and Saturday 29th February. There are also great opportunities to discover more about how the production was created at Nixon in China Unwrapped one-hour tasters, and Pre-show talks.

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