Photo by Tim Matheson

The six principals play out the musical hands they’ve been dealt with striking commitment. The part of Chinese premier Chou En-lai, the most poetic and lyrical, is given a dignified but slightly stiff delivery by Chen Ye Yuan; Thomas Hammons makes the most of Chou’s counterpart Henry Kissinger, his strong bass-baritone voice balanced by an equally strong presence. As Chairman Mao, tenor Alan Woodrow draws a massive part, heroically conceived and vocally taxing, latent with both menace and pathos.

Sally Dibblee embodies Pat Nixon, the most essentially likable of the characters, with cool authority. Vocal fireworks are the province of soprano Tracy Dahl, whose show-stopping da capo aria “I am the wife of Mao Tse-tung” brings the second act to a chilling close. They form a strong, cohesive ensemble. But baritone Robert Orth in the title role deserves special mention: His voice seems made for Adams’s music. His physical characterization is unnervingly accurate; his clear and unaffected diction perfectly conveys Goodman’s wordy but rich texts.

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