Nixon in China

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Most operas have fairly melodramatic overtones – doomed love, eternal damnation, the corruption of the soul – the list goes on. But this week the Victorian Opera is staging an opera ab0ut something a little bit different: Richard Nixon and China.

Composer John Adams’ Nixon in China is based around Tricky Dicky’s historic visit to China in 1972, which at the time was known as ‘the week that changed the world’. The opera, which explore aspects of liberty, power and person choice, has been doing the rounds since 1987 though Victorian Opera’s ambitious production marks the first Australian production.

Director Roger Hodgman oversees a sweeping cast of nine principals, the Red Army ballet and a full chorus that represents the grandeur of the state visit. Nixon (Barry Ryan) and Mao Tse-tung (Bradley Daley) open discussions over a lavish banquet, with many of the librettos taken from speeches given at the time. However the most interesting moments come when the two world leaders are alone, sharing more personal thoughts over cups of tea.

But the best thing about Nixon in China (aside from the poster) is the music. Adams’ eclectic score mixes big band tunes and foxtrots with synths and classical movements. It’s also really catchy.

For a grand opera that is as much spectacle as song, Nixon in China is one of the biggest tickets in town this year.

Nixon in China is playing May 21 and 23 at Her Majesty’s Theatre, 219 Exhibition Street Melbourne.
For more information and tickets visit victorianopera.com.au.

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