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  • William J A Parker

House filled to the rafters for Nixon in China


*****


As former American president Nixon once said, "if you want to make beautiful music, you must play the black and white notes together". In the hands of Scottish Opera, John Adam's contemporary classic, which perhaps first began the idea that contemporary opera should be concerned with contemporary events, was as full of surging energy and romantic charm as ever.



Julia Sporsén (Pat Nixon) in Nixon in China. Scottish Opera 2020. Credit James Glossop.


The stunning set is sculpted of rotating platforms, an exacting recreation of Chairman Mao's private rooms and beautiful, often spell-binding projection work imagined by Will Duke and Hayley Egan. Further to this, both Ellen Ruge's trance-like lighting and Dick Bird's design, with it's vivid, nationalistic blues and reds, is nothing short of genius. Each member of Nixon in China's creative team appears be on the same page, sharing vision and intent, and the results are breathtaking.


All cast members give impressive vocal performances, but most of note was Eric Greene's imposing baritone voice, delivered with a presidential smile, and Julia Sporsén and Hye-Youn Lee in the two lead female roles. Sporsén's sustained intensity carries the story excellently and Lee is both an intimidating presence and a comedic one, with unmatched vocal agility on stage, especially in her upper register. With all elements considered, Scottish Opera bring a story to life that, with all it's innate political tensions and media-bashing relevance, strikes a firm chord with its Theatre Royal audience.


With all elements considered, Scottish Opera bring a story to life that, with all it's innate political tensions and media-bashing relevance, strikes a firm chord with its Theatre Royal audience.

Eric Greene, Nicholas Lester and Julia Sporsén in Nixon in China. Scottish Opera 2020. Credit James Glossop.


Choreographer Nathan Johnston should be proud of his work in the opera's vibrant reimagining of The Red Detachment, with some of the most captivating choreography to have been in seen in any production so far this season, all made possible by his extraordinary team of dancers.


Joana Carneiro's command over Adam's deeply rhythmically challenging score on the podium is superb, and the orchestra respond to her very well indeed, with plenty of current and former Royal Conservatoire of Scotland students playing a big part in the action.


Nixon in China's director, John Fulljames, should take pride in this production. With all it's theatrical touches, poignant metaphors and exotic effects, it is no short of a masterpiece, which honors both history and feeds the contemporary mind.



Hye-Youn Lee (Madame Mao Tse-tung) and Julia Sporsén (Pat Nixon) in Nixon in China. Scottish Opera 2020. Credit James Glossop.

Dancers and The Chorus of Nixon in China. Scottish Opera 2020. Credit James Glossop.


Julia Sporsén (Pat Nixon) in Nixon in China. Scottish Opera 2020. Credit James Glossop.




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