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The acclaimed Théâtre du Châtelet production of Nixon in China will, unlike the revolution, be televised: this evening, to be precise, which translates to a start time of 2:00 PM here in NYC. A video player is embedded after the jump.

The cast includes Franco Pomponi (Richard Nixon), Alfred Kim (Mao Zedong), June Anderson (Pat Nixon), Sumi Jo (Jiang Qing – Mme. Mao), Kyung Chun Kim (Zhou Enlai) and Peter Sidhom (Henry Kissinger). Musical direction is by Alexander Briger and the production is directed by Chen Shi-Zheng.

Photo: Marie-Noëlle Robert

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Nice to see that June and Jo can reinvent themselves like this.

  • ianw2

    Unfortunately that’s 4am here, so I’ll miss it. But Cheers everyone anyway.

  • Camille

    I am happy, too. They deserve their successes.

    Damn it all to hell, I left my computer in NYC. Maybe it will be on tap for a couple weeks, as this one I’d like to see, as per oedipe’s description in a thread or two ago. Mr. Kim sounded excellently in that excerpt i heard.

    Go Junie! Grimoaldo still loves you so rip it up for him!

    • grimoaldo

      Yes, he still does.
      Grimoaldo loves you too, Camille!

  • m. croche

    Yum: Moutai liquor. So what if it looks like it comes from a bleach bottle and smells of death? It’s the Dom Perignon of Chinese baijiu. Ganbei!

    It will be interesting to see what decisions C SZ decides to make with this piece. I’m sure he wants to keep one foot in China, so he has to be rather careful in his handling of the big guy. It’s possible to speak gingerly about the Cultural Revolution in print, but it sure hasn’t been a feature in the mass media lately. The eight model plays, of which the Red Detachment of Women is one, are still regarded with admiration and affection by the still-potent old guard. One can only hope that the folks in suits are so preoccupied with other matters right now that they don’t have time to think too deeply about Parisian opera houses.

    • Camille

      Monsieur croche! I was just thinking of you as I have a question my spouse wants to pose to you and I would, accordingly, like to ask your general e-mail--crocodile something?

      Thanks a bunch! It is a nice question, by the way.

      Very sincerely yours
      Camille of the Night

      • m. croche

        Camille: I see that sometimes nature compels us both to be nocturnal creatures! My e-mail is at krokodiligrai at aol dot com.

        • m. croche

          By the way, your husband remains the greatest off-stage character since Onkel Greifenklau. Or Keikobad. One of the two.

          • Camille

            He is more like the Comodo dragon!!

            Goody! I just sent it to him-- he basically wants to know when you will be in the Big Rotten Apple as he knows of some Azerbaijaini restaurants out in the wilds of Queens basically, that’s it, with a few musicological queries.

            Give Professor Taruskin our profoundest obeisances!

            Mucho spasibo
            C.

          • MontyNostry

            … or Maris in Frasier. Or Spot in the Munsters?

          • Krunoslav

            “the greatest off-stage character since Onkel Greifenklau. Or Keikobad”
            ………

            “*Agamemnon* hoert dich!”

            Someone should make short dramas about all these offstage people.

            Alfredo Germont’s sister runs away with Meg Page’s husband; that kind of thing.

            The woman to whom Elle in VOIX HUMAINE utters the immortal “Mais, Madame--que voulez-vous que j’y fasse?”is blackmailing the uncle in TURN OF THE SCREW--he, so gallant and handsome, so deep in the busy world…

          • Bianca Castafiore

            Cammy, does your hubby know of any Bukharan rest. in Queens?

            Have you been to Cafe Kashkar in Brighton Beach?

          • Camille

            Hello Madame Castafiore!
            I don’t know which he knows but he has a magical talent for finding the best food at the best prices. Thought he said it was Azerbaijani he had mentioned. No, we have not been to Brighton Beach since the 90’s. One needs a light plane to get there as the subway takes a year.

            Will you be leaving the palazzo to hear Karita’s Makropoulos Case? I can’t wait!!!

            Hope you and Cap Haddock are recovering from pollen season

            Fond regards from
            Camellia

  • Chanterelle

    Are US-based readers able to access ARTE Live Web on their computers? I recall having difficulty. It would be great to see this again.

    It was a bit of culture shock to see it in Paris (and I missed the airplane), but I liked the production and the audience was enthusiastic. The ladies, once warmed up, are very persuasive, I had a few reservations about a couple of the men. Adams really hadn’t learned how to write kindly for the voice!

    • Henry Holland

      Chanterelle, I’m watching/listening now. Haven’t heard this opera in ages, I love what I’m hearing so far.

    • A. Poggia Turra

      Unfortunately my bad luck with the Arte sited (and the Monnaie site) continues -- no go, even after trying four different browsers, temporarily disabling all of my security programs, updatinf the Adobe Flash player, ans logging in via my proxy service to show my IP address originating from Paris. Oh well (I have no problem with Medici, Munich, Bayreuth, Opera National de Paris, and most every other stream I’ve tried.

      I’ll try to catch the replay on a different PC.

    • brooklynpunk

      The transmission was --FLAWLESS-- Chanterelle!

      Both in sound and picture, it was an unusually perfect stream!

      • Clita del Toro

        Bklyn, I usually have good luck with Arte too. I began to watch and it was fine, but decided to watch it later on. I couldn’t tear myself away from the Michelangelo Signorile Show in Sirius.

    • bluecabochon

      No problems for me -- I just clicked on LaCieca’s link. I enjoyed it, and the musicianship was exemplary.

  • oedipe

    An interesting little interview with Chen Shi-Zheng in Le Figaro, entitled “Nixon, this hero!”

    http://www.lefigaro.fr/musique/2012/04/09/03006-20120409ARTFIG00382-nixon-ce-heros.php

  • I am watching too. Good thing this happened on my day off. I am liking this production very much. I like how intimate it is

    • and June is not sounding bad, considering. I never liked her tendency to attack the note from below and then get there. it is more pronounce now.

  • way to ruin Sumy’s aria. browse chose that moment to buffer. Missed a good third of the fucking aria

    • florezrocks

      Lindoro, I’m enjoying it a lot.
      such a clear and introspective production
      chorus and orchestra wonderful. Jo is hilarious and full of energy. I like the guy playing Nixon a lot -- too bad we didn’t have him at the MET instead of the ailing Maddelenna

  • Henry Holland

    Alfred Kim (Mao) would be a *perfect* Alviano in Die Gezeichneten.

    I really enjoyed that. The musical values were good, good-to-excellent singing and I loved the sparse production. Still not sure about the third act --it always seems a bit tacked on to me-- but overall, thanks to our Doyenne for the alert/link.

    *shudder* Jiang Qing *shudder*

    • grimoaldo

      What a wonderful treat it was! a little group met in the chatroom and all agreed June was divine. Amazing the way she and Jo have kept their voices in such good shape -- not to mention their looks. Great score, beautifully played and sung.

  • m. croche

    Weird production, constipated in ways that have nothing to do with the original opera, with traditional Chinese opera/theater, or with Cultural Revolution culture. I liked the bare stage, but the actors (with the exception of the ladies) seemed actively constrained by the director. Gesture may be comparatively sparse in some types of Chinese opera, but it is always emotionally-charged and telling. Not so much in this production. Chen Shi-Zheng’s Nixon acted like a Hollywood version of a US president, very little like the historical Nixon or the character I think the opera is trying to create. CSZ’s Zhou Enlai was dead from the neck down -- any drinking game involving shots downed for every gesture made by Zhou Enlai would leave people stone-cold sober. Sumi Jo’s Jiang Qing was invisible until her solo -- the subsequent softening of her character in Act III made her seem ditzy, not a B-grade-stage-star-turned-tyrant. Mao, from what I could tell, was allowed only to produce Alzheimer’s vacuity in Act III. Only June Anderson seemed more or less at home in the production (and with the style) -- perhaps that was CSZ’s decision, perhaps she stood up to him.

    That said, there were some things I quite enjoyed: Mao’s character had an excellent arc from the beginning of Act I/2 to the scene’s end. The opening of the scene has the best rendition of an avuncular “Grandpa Mao” I’ve seen in this opera. There are some witty touches in the ballet: Pat Nixon pulls a can of Coke from her purse to help revive the beaten dancer. She also gives one of the guards a couple whacks with her handbag. There were few signs of joy or life in this production, so moments like that were a welcome relief.

    And the color scheme made my eyes bleed.

    • oedipe

      …in ways that have nothing to do with the original opera

      Et tu mi fili?!
      Isn’t that what detractors always say about ‘regie’?

      • m. croche

        Eh, you could call CSZ’s version of Nixon’s character a “regie” decision, but I’d call it a substantial coarsening of the conception I derive from the libretto, the music and what I’ve seen elsewhere. If I thought insights were added to either Nixon or “Nixon”, then it wouldn’t have bothered me. Instead, this Nixon just looked a subordinate character from a bad action film. It was just so generic. When this Nixon wasn’t ramrod straight he was mugging and preening. The interest of the opera for me is how public and private personae play off of one another -- and this character was mostly the former. CSZ’s treatment of the figure is superficial. And it’s not a cultural thing: I don’t think what he does with Zhou Enlai is much more interesting.

        Then again, I’m no theater critic, so take this all with a cellar’s worth of salt.

        • manou

          A Benvenuto Cellini salt cellar, of course.

    • brooklynpunk

      The only thing I mildly disagree with, croche , is your issue with the color scheme

      It seemed perfect-TO ME- for the era it portrayed.

      I didn’t think this production worked nearly as well as the MET run--BUT, I very much enjoyed getting a chance to see it, on my ‘puter!

      And June Anderson WAS THE STAR… in my opinion!

    • oedipe

      Let’s see. I have no doubt Chen could have depicted the Nixon character in a more complex way, and Pomponi could have done a subtler job of acting it; I am sure some of the other characterizations could have been improved upon as well. But should the characterizations have been more “accurate”? Opera characters are schematic concoctions, rather than accurate images of actual human beings. Moreover, these concoctions come to life only through the agency of directors and artists who, each time, tip the scales their own biased ways.

      IMO, CSZ’s production does offer new insight, or rather a new point of view. It is the point of view of someone who is between two cultures and who establishes a critical distance from both. It is also the point of view of a younger generation, who dares to demystify the characters and events referred to in the opera.

      The production starts out with a very powerful symbolism: the pairing, on a large screen, of vintage newsreel from the US and China. Although the Chinese way-of-life looks like hard work and poverty, whereas the US way-of-life looks like wealth and plenty, there is in both newsreels such an air of propaganda and artificiality that a contemporary audience cannot help but notice the flaws and limitations of both. Thus, from the start, a distance is created, between the audience and China, and between the audience and the US of that time.

      I believe the main “message” Chen is trying to convey is that the historical characters involved are ordinary people, with lots of insecurities, whose capacity to change the course of events is, to a large extent, limited. This in spite of their perceived enormous power, because that’s the way history works! The last act is very significant in this respect: in the darkness of the night, the main characters wander around like in a spell, trying to find some comfort as couples, talking about their insecurities in their confrontation with history, midgets as compared to the huge, dimly lit Mao statue standing ominously in the middle of the stage. The contrast between the image of power and the “real” people behind this (supposedly eternal) image of power couldn’t be greater.

      One more remark: as more American operas are entering the international repertory, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see productions that stray from the “original” and that, from an American perspective, seem weirdly staged. This is not any different from, say, a Bohème staged as a Nordic European fairy tale (without a trace of the Italian/French “original” worldview).

      • m. croche

        Hey there, oedipe. I’m genuinely glad that you liked the production -- I’m not in the business of telling people that they shouldn’t enjoy the things they do, and I usually hope to learn something from their enjoyment.

        I agree with you that the opera Nixon in China tries to convey the “ordinariness” of political leaders. That was pretty much the program of Sellars, Goodman and Adams. My criticism of CSZ’s production is that it too often does the reverse: it makes many of the central figures more opaque, more generic. I’ve mentioned before that I find the gestural language the actors were allowed to apply limited and inexpressive. I found the relentless symmetry enervating.

        To pick on another detail: Why was Jiang Qing always wearing sunglasses? If you take a look at a range of pictures of Jiang Qing, you never see her wearing them (http://tinyurl.com/87mq5g6) I understand the Jaruzelski-shades are a form of shorthand to communicate power, inscrutability and surveillance -- but why continue to wear them in Act III? Eyes can communicate a lot, and this costuming decision deprived us of Sumi Jo’s. CSZ is employing a theatrical trick here, and it does produce a certain kind of effect, but at the cost of expressivity and at the cost of humanizing the figure.

        Not all of CSZ’s decisions were problematic -- I highlighted some things about the production I enjoyed -- but I was surprised at how flat this production seemed to me.

  • aulus agerius

    I tuned in late. The whole ballet sequence was exciting -- I want to adopt the lad in the orange sneakers! I’ll be June loved wearing that HAIR. Personally I loved the color. Now I’m motivated to see maybe the July performance in SF -- that would mean sacrificing Caramoor though.

  • efrayer
  • Bianca Castafiore

    Alfred Kim was indeed very good in the Met’s Trovatore 2 years ago, certainly better and more exciting than Alvarez, whom Kim was covering. Ah, the wonders of the Met’s casting…

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Even though Sumi Jo sounds strained to the max her MME MAO is quite wonderful. The video is still available here: