- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 21, 2006

CHICAGO (Reuters) — A dozen years after his death and more than three decades after he left the White House in disgrace, Richard Nixon is alive as never before in the grand opera world, which can’t seem to get enough of the him.

“Nixon in China,” the John Adams’ opera first staged in 1987, is in the midst of a new wave of popularity and performances, the latest being a triumphal turn on the stage of the Chicago Opera Theater where it opened Friday.

Mr. Adams’ seductive yet complex and minimalist melodies, as well as librettist Alice Goodman’s poetry turn Mr. Nixon’s 1972 breakthrough visit to China into a timeless tour of human nature.

Here again are Mr. Nixon; wife Pat; Henry Kissinger; Chairman Mao Zedong; his powerful wife, Chiang Ch’ing; and Prime Minister Chou En-lai, facing life’s sunset and their own banalities even at the height of power.

In what opera does best, the aggregate soars far beyond the parts and personalities, and even the China visit itself.

Brian Dickie, general manager of the Chicago Opera Theater, thinks that is why it continues to endure and will likely be coming to life on stages 50 or 100 years from now.

“These are universal, timeless characters,” he said. “They happen to be Nixon and Mao, but throughout human history, there have been similar types of people.”

Its anchor in history should not cause it to be dated or make it incomprehensible for future generations, he said, and if anything, it might be updated in years to come to morph the characters into contemporary political figures.

One thing is certain. The opera has enjoyed a remarkable exposure in recent times. The current production’s sets, costumes and other assets were done in association with several other U.S. companies, principally the Opera Theater of St. Louis, which has already staged it.

Other venues where it has or will be seen are the Portland Opera in Oregon, the Houston Grand Opera, Opera Colorado and the Minnesota Opera as well as companies in San Francisco and Cincinnati, Mr. Dickie said.

The English National Opera will perform “Nixon” in June and July.

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