Canadian Premiere of John Adams’s Minimalist Masterpiece

Posted by Vancouver Opera On 11:11 AM
Vancouverites will be the first in the country to experience John Adams’s gripping masterpiece in Vancouver Opera’s national premiere of Nixon in China, March 13th-20th, 2010. This minimalist tour-de-force by one of the world’s leading composers will be performed for the first time in Canada in a brand-new production commissioned as part of VO’s Golden Anniversary Season.

This milestone production is accompanied by a major series of free and ticketed community-engagement events through March, 2010 that explore the historic 1972 meeting between Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong, the opera it inspired and the establishment of the Chinese community in Vancouver. Journalist Alexandre Trudeau, historian Margaret MacMillan and architect Bing Thom are among the esteemed speakers. Details are available at

Opening night of Nixon in China is Saturday, March 13th, 2010, with subsequent performances Tuesday, March 16th, Thursday, March 18th and Saturday, March 20th. All performances take place at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Georgia and Hamilton Streets, Vancouver B.C. and begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets starting at $29 are available exclusively at the Vancouver Opera Ticket Centre, online at or by telephone (604-683-0222).

Singing the role of Richard Nixon will be leading baritone Robert Orth. Internationally-acclaimed baritone Chen-ye Yuan will sing Chou En-Lai, and heldentenor Alan Woodrow will sing Mao Tse-tung. Canadian sopranos Sally Dibblee and Tracy Dahl will sing Pat Nixon and Chiang Ch’ing, and bass-baritone Thomas Hammons will sing Henry Kissinger.

Zheng Cao, who was to make her role debut as Nancy T’ang, has withdrawn for health reasons. Replacing Ms. Cao will be mezzo-soprano Melissa Malde, who has previously sung the role for Colorado Opera.

Exhilarating and driving, challenging and accessible, John Adams’s richly textured and lyrical score pulses with rhythm. John DeMain, who conducted the world première production of Nixon in China at Houston Grand Opera in 1987, will conduct the Vancouver Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

Esteemed Toronto-based stage director Michael Cavanagh will direct the new production. It will be choreographed by the prominent Vancouver choreographer Wen Wei Wang, who, as a child, witnessed Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing. Video design is by Sean Nieuwenhuis.

This brand-new, innovative production is designed by the gifted American scenic designer Erhard Rom and will include a scale replica of The Spirit of ’76, from which the Nixons will emerge at the start of the opera. A film crew will follow the action on-stage, recording and replaying it throughout the performance.

The Story In Brief

In 1972, Richard Nixon and Chairman Mao Zedong shook hands and changed the course of human events. West and East looked into each others eyes and discovered a vast mystery of differences and desires. Henry Kissinger, Chou En-lai, Pat Nixon and Chiang Ch’ing all play pivotal roles in this fascinating drama of psychology and global politics.


Nixon in China was written during the period 1985 to 1987 and is considered by many to be a modern masterpiece and one of the cornerstones of American minimalist music. Composed by John Adams to a libretto by poet and scholar Alice Goodman, the opera tells the story of U.S. President Richard Nixon’s momentous trip to China in 1972, when he met Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong and opened the political door to the Far East.

John Adams is part of a contemporary movement to create opera that explores current events. This movement includes Stewart Wallace and Anthony Davis, the composers of 1995’s Milk and 1986’s X, about Harvey Milk and Malcolm X, respectively.

Both the music and libretto are admired for their sophistication and accessibility, and Nixon in China is acclaimed as one of the few late-20th-century English-language operas that will likely attain a prominent place in the canon for decades to come.

Single tickets starting at $29 (plus handling fee) are available from the Vancouver Opera Ticket Centre, online at, or by phone at 604-683-0222. Groups: For special pricing for groups of ten or more, call 604-683-0222.

Learn More
Music tracks, podcasts, a full synopsis and extensive background information are available at

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