'It sounded right, it sounded clean, it sounded new,' says librettist of Nixon in China opera idea
I knew that Nixon in China librettist Alice Goodman is now working as a university chaplain in England, so I didn't think she would come out of operatic retirement to speak about her first libretto and her first collaboration with composer John Adams and director Peter Sellars.
But she did speak, in connection with the opening of Nixon in China at the Met -- a production that's being broadcast in high-definition Saturday afternoon at Cineplex cinemas (the encore screenings are March 12).
An interview with Goodman was sent out by Associated Press yesterday. It's a nice read that gives a little bit of insight about why this opera might be even more compelling now than it was at its birth, a generation ago. AP's Mike Silverman writes:
Goodman and Adams agreed from the beginning that the opera would be heroic in nature and not portray Nixon as a caricature. In the 1980s, barely a decade after he had resigned the presidency in disgrace, that was not an obvious choice.
"People got very angry at the idea we would write an opera about Nixon at all," she said. "And then the fact that it wasn't going to be a satire was unthinkable."
I've thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the opera over the past couple of weeks, and my admiration for Adamas as a composer has soared. The musical materials he uses are as simple and basic as the classic wooden letter-blocks toddlers used to chew instead of making words. But he does SO much with them.
Here is Madam Mao's show, from Act II of Nixon in China, from the original Peter Sellars production: