From Jazzilla to Nixon In China

Posted by Vancouver Opera On 12:18 PM
Vancouverites packed the Queen Elizabeth Theatre recently for the Vancouver Opera's Canadian premiere of Nixon in China. Dubbed "the first CNN opera", the $1.4 million mounting of John Adams' acclaimed opera tells the story of the U.S. president's historic 1972 visit to China.

Championed by philanthropist and mega opera supporter Martha Lou Henley, Vancouver Opera's general director James Wright and board chair Alex Besharat welcomed patrons to the opening night celebrations. Among the bright lights in attendance were Mayor Gregor Robertson and his wife, Amy; U.S. Consul General Phillip Chicola and his wife, Vicky; Hassan and Nezhat Khosrowshahi; Moh and Yulanda Faris; Ori and Pam Kowarsky; Arlene Gladstone; Manjy Sidoo; Susan Van der Flier and Carmen Murphy.

Mixing music with politics to tell the tale of the momentous meeting between President Richard Nixon and Chairman Mao Zedong - a meeting that change the course of history and East-West relations - Adamas and libretist Alice Goodman turned operatic convention on its head with an ecletic mix of traditional symphonic writing, big-band utterances (a saxophone quartet), and a kind of '80s pop rock.

Sally Dibblee as Pat Nixon, Tracy Dahl as Madame Mao and Alan Woodrow as Mao delivered powerful performances, with special props to baritone Robert Orth, whose statemanlike characterization of Nixon was uncanny. Under the direction of John DeMain, the Vancouver Opera orchestra was finely tuned. Kudos to Wright and the Vancouver Opera for mounting a modern masterpiece during a time of recession and uncertainly. The investment paid off in spades.

"We are grateful to all who contributed," said Wright. "We are particularly grateful to Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad for its production sponsorship, the the B.C. Arts Council for its extraordinary support of the production and to Martha Lou Henley for her continuing generosity and for chamioning this important Canadian premiere.

As seen in the March 20, 2010 National Post: City Life-Parties, Culture & Society by Fred Lee

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