A Few Words from James Wright on Nixon in China

Posted by Vancouver Opera On 10:55 AM


I am very excited – and proud – that Vancouver Opera is presenting the Canadian premiere of Nixon in China. This captivating late-20th century work has been performed in some of the great opera capitals of the world – and is now receiving a brand new production for its long-awaited debut in Canada.

Premiered in 1987 at Houston Grand Opera, the work has seen subsequent productions in cities across the United States including Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis and Denver. European audiences have flocked to performances in London, Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. It’s time Vancouverites get in on the excitement!

Canada is a small country when it comes to its number of opera companies. Opera.ca, “the voice of opera in Canada,” lists a membership of 19 companies, of which I would consider 11 to be “traditional” opera companies. The size and geographic and financial diversity of our Canadian opera field makes it difficult to assemble the critical mass necessary to mount big, new productions, especially of new and contemporary work. It is difficult to find partners of similar size and aesthetic to work together on these ambitious projects. Calgary Opera has been a leader over the past decade in developing new work and showcasing contemporary opera, and Pacific Opera Victoria has a commendable history of introducing lesser-known works to its audience. Vancouver Opera has commissioned three previous operas (The Architect, Naomi’s Road and Jack Pine) and will present a world premiere in October (Lillian Alling). But it remains difficult to partner regularly with these or other companies. On the other side of the border, American opera companies don’t usually look north for co-commissioners or co-presenters, as they have plenty of choices at home (there are more than one hundred opera companies in the US).

The Canadian Opera Company (COC) will present Nixon in China in a future season but will be using a fine production developed earlier for a group of American opera companies. While the COC and Vancouver Opera wish to work more closely on joint projects and have been discussing a couple of ideas, our companies developed our individual Nixon in China plans at a time when there was less conversation – and seemingly less in common - between us.

There is another new Nixon in China being presented in Long Beach California in March – just a week after VO’s performances. Long Beach Opera is an exciting company performing unusual repertoire in unusual venues; I’m sure their Nixon will be quite stylized and very interesting. I understand as well that a couple of major American opera companies are considering productions of the work over the next couple of years.

All this activity points up clearly the vitality of this important post-World War II opera and the interest the work generates around the world. I am so glad that Vancouver Opera, with support from the Cultural Olympiad 2010, is presenting a brand new take on the opera and introducing it to Canadian audiences during the 2010 Paralympic Games.

~ James W. Wright, General Director

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