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One negative, one mixed, and one positive view of the Metropolitan Opera production...
- HurdAudio: It was the composition of Nixon in China that fell flat for me. I've noticed that John Adams has built a career upon taking compositional ideas from other composers (borrowing heavily from the language and sound of Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach for Nixon in China or lifting from Charles Ives's Central Park in the Dark in My Father Knew Charles Ives) and heavily diluting the sound. Gone were the additive processes and static elaborations of Glass. All the sharp corners and dissonances filed down to a consonant sheen.
- Out West Arts: Nixon seemed like more of a wish about where this company should have been twenty years ago than an actual statement about where it's headed now...But Nixon is equally about the hallucinatory as well, and Adams and Sellars clearly reveled in the off-kilter version of the world they generate in Act III. And crazy, in and of itself, can sometimes be enough to justify a work or performance and the Met's new/old Nixon in China is often satisfying if not overwhelmingly so.
- The Big City: If the goal of the piece was to document the meeting between a craven, petty failed president and one of the great villains of the twentieth century, then there is no way the opera would have the effect it does. And that effect is utterly mesmerizing and extraordinarily moving.
It works with such power because it’s an opera. That’s a useful tautology. It’s an opera from the ground up, a musical drama that integrates libretto, music and staging from the initial conception. Everything works together, everything is done for a reason.