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'Great Performances at the Met: Nixon in China' to be broadcast on AETN June 19

Posted 24 May 2011

“Nixon in China,” an opera based on President Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, will air as part of “Great Performances: At the Metropolitan Opera” on the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) on Sunday, June 19, at 12:30 p.m.
“Nixon in China,” composed of three acts, relates Nixon and Mao’s first encounter where they discuss relations between America and China followed by a grand feast where they celebrate harmoniously. The second act focuses of Nixon’s wife, Pat. She visits several sights exposing Chinese culture and engages in "The Red Detachment of Women,” an opera written by Mao’s wife. Sparks fly when the main characters call to mind the Cultural Revolution. In the final act, the characters ponder their lives, wondering if they made good decisions.
“Nixon in China” stars James Maddalena as Nixon, a role he created at the opera’s world premiere in 1987. With a libretto by American poet Alice Goodman, the opera is based on significant moments during Nixon’s visit to China in February 1972, with the key political figures as the lead characters: Nixon, first lady Pat Nixon (Janis Kelly) and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (Richard Paul Fink) for the Americans; Chairman Mao Tse-tung (Robert Brubaker), his wife Chiang Ch'ing (Kathleen Kim) and Premier Chou En-lai (Russell Braun) for the Chinese.
“Nixon in China” features the work of the world premiere production’s design team, including set designer Adrianne Lobel, costume designer Dunya Ramicova, lighting designer James F. Ingalls, and choreographer Mark Morris. Adams, Sellars, Goodman and Morris also collaborated on the opera “The Death of Klinghoffer.”
Adams, who has conducted his works with many major orchestras, makes his Met debut as conductor of “Nixon in China”; his opera “Doctor Atomic” had its Met premiere in 2008 and later aired on “Great Performance at the Met.”
Maddalena has sung Nixon on many of the world’s leading stages, including the English National Opera, Netherlands Opera, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Washington Opera, and the Théâtre du Châtelet. Kelly, who also starred with Maddalena in the recent English National Opera revival of the opera, made her Met debut as Pat Nixon. Kathleen Kim, who won critical plaudits for her Zerbinetta and Olympia in recent seasons, takes on the challenging coloratura role of Chiang Ch’ing, the forbidding and formidable wife of Mao Tsetung. Brubaker has sung in many 20th-century works at the Met, including “Moses und Aron,” “The Makropoulos Case,” “Peter Grimes” and the Met premiere of Busoni’s “Doktor Faust.” Braun is best-known to Met audiences for his Figaro in “Il Barbiere di Siviglia.” Fink sang principal roles in the Met premieres of Adams’ “Doctor Atomic” and John Harbison’s “The Great Gatsby.”
“Great Performances at the Met: Nixon in China” was directed for the live HD transmission by Peter Sellars and hosted by Met baritone Thomas Hampson. Jay David Saks is the music producer. The performance is sung in English with subtitles.
The Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) is Arkansas’s statewide public television network that enhances lives by providing lifelong learning opportunities for people from all walks of life. AETN delivers local, award-winning productions and classic, trusted PBS programs aimed at sharing Arkansas and the world with viewers. AETN depends on the generosity of Arkansans and the State of Arkansas to continue offering quality programming. For more information, visit, or follow the AETN blog at AETN is broadcast on KETS (Little Rock), KEMV (Mountain View), KETG (Arkadelphia), KAFT (Fayetteville), KTEJ (Jonesboro), and KETZ (El Dorado).