Last night a friend and I attended Eugene Opera’s production of John Adams’ Nixon in China – described as “the first-ever re-thinking of the masterpiece The New York Times calls audacious, moving, and inspired”. It was a unique and innovative performance by the singers, Conductor Andrew Bisantz, and the Eugene Symphony Orchestra!
The cast included Metropolitan Opera baritone Lee Gregory (Nixon) and soprano sensation Kelly Kaduce (Pat Nixon) as well as soprano Laura Decher Wayte (Madame Mao Tse-tung), a voice instructor at the University of Oregon, baritone Christopher Burchett (Chou En-lai), and bass Michael Gallup (Henry Kissinger). The opera’s General Director and tenor, Mark Beudert (Chairman Mao Tse-tung), presents Nixon in China along with the University of Oregon’s commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China. It’s a “unique collaboration between an opera company and a major university that highlights the historical and aesthetic understanding of a modern new classic of the U.S. opera”.
The opera was inspired by Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit ending two decades of non-communication between the United States and China. “Since its première, the opera has been presented on many occasions, both in Europe and North America, and recorded twice. It is recognized as a significant and lasting contribution to American opera and opera in general.”
First produced in Houston in 1987 the opera is highly acclaimed. “This year is the 40th year of the signing of the Shanghai Communiqué – the first piece in the normalization of US-China relations. Four opera companies nationally are producing the opera. Only the Eugene Opera, together with the University of Oregon, is using the occasion to highlight the anniversary of the Shanghai Communiqué and reflect on the history of US relations with China, at a time when this relationship is arguably the most crucial for US foreign policy and global politics.”
In December 2011 the Eugene Opera celebrated its 35th anniversary by presenting Bizet’s Carmen at the Hult Center. Eugene’s Mayor, Kitty Piercy, declared December 26 – 31 “Eugene Opera Week” and praised the company for their “vital contributors to the arts community” and “bringing the community together through appreciation of opera”. She noted that the “Eugene Opera has provided a training ground for many young singers who have gone on to international operatic careers at the highest level”.