Opera makes its Greek premiere

common problem for opera houses today is the relatively limited repertoire, as well as the fact that the majority of major works were written before the start of the 20th century. In Greece, this presents an even greater challenge, compounded by the fact that the National Opera has tended, at least until now, to ignore 20th century productions. The appointment of Stefanos Lazaridis as the National Opera’s artistic director has meant a very different program this season, which will reach its climax with the first presentation in Greece of American minimalist composer John Adams’s opera «Nixon in China.» The English National Opera production (it was staged in London in 2000) will go on stage at the Athens Concert Hall on April 20, 22 and 28, directed by the acclaimed avant-garde American director Peter Sellars, who has worked closely with Adams on several productions and also directed the opera’s world premiere 20 years ago in Houston, Texas. «Nixon in China» ranks among the most important 20th century operas and is considered to be Adams’s most memorable work. Even since the end of the Cold War, which defines the show historically, psychologically and aesthetically, the opera has not lost its appeal. The opera was given a major boost by a recording which featured the cast of the original production and the St Luke’s Orchestra, under the baton of Edo de Waart (Nonesuch Records, 79177). A string of new productions followed and last year’s take by the Chicago Opera was quite a sensation. In 1972, then US president Richard Nixon made his historic visit to Mao’s China. The opera focuses on the personalities as well as the personal stories of the six leading characters in the visit – president Nixon and his wife Pat, Mao Tse-tung and his wife Chiang Ch’ing and the two leaders’ advisers, Henry Kissinger and then Chinese prime minister Chou En-lai. Peter Sellars was the one who came up with the idea for the opera and, when he made the suggestion to Adams, the composer was thrilled. That was back in 1983, at a time when almost every reference to Nixon was negative. He was the president who had sent Adams’s generation to Vietnam and, of course, he was embroiled in the Watergate scandal. Yet gradually Adams began approaching Nixon’s character differently, in part because of the libretto that Alice Goodman had penned for the production. Adams, Sellars and Goodman agreed on the title and decided that they would tackle the work as an epic opera and not as satire. They also wanted to present a historical event using the means made available by television, meaning the «arranged» reality which is so carefully prepared by teams of people to shape world opinion. That is why «Nixon in China» has been described as the first CNN opera. Tickets are available at the Olympia Theater, 59-61 Academias, tel 210.361.2461.

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