The Metropolitan Opera HD Live: Season 5, Episode 6

John Adams: Nixon in China (12 Feb. 2011)

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US President Richard Nixon, wife Pat, and Henry Kissinger travel to China to visit Chairman and Madame Mao in 1972, normalizing relations between the countries for the first time in 25 years. Both sides wonder if this for the better.



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Episode credited cast:
James Maddalena ...
Janis Kelly ...
Robert Brubaker ...
Kathleen Kim ...
Chian Ch'ing
Russell Braun ...
Richard Paul Fink ...
Ginger Costa-Jackson ...
Nancy Ch'ing (First Secretary to Mao)
Teresa S. Herold ...
Second Secretary to Mao
Tamara Mumford ...
Third Secretary to Mao
Haruno Yamazaki ...
Solo Dancers
Kanji Segawa ...
Solo Dancers
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
John Adams ...
Himself - Conductor
Metropolitan Opera Ballet ...
Thomas Hampson ...
Herself - Host
Leo Kubota ...
Chinese Soldier / Waiter


US President Richard Nixon, wife Pat, and Henry Kissinger travel to China to visit Chairman and Madame Mao in 1972, normalizing relations between the countries for the first time in 25 years. Both sides wonder if this for the better.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis






Release Date:

12 February 2011 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(without intermission)

Aspect Ratio:

16:9 HD
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Did You Know?


Remake of Great Performances: Nixon in China (1988) See more »

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User Reviews

Mostly strong filming of a wonderful opera
7 January 2015 | by (US) – See all my reviews

It was fun to see this opera come to life after being familiar with it on CD. Certainly it makes the experience more emotional on both ends; the humor and wit are much clearer, as are the darker and sadder elements of change and loss.

Peter Sellars, who directed the stage production also guided the filming during a live performance. Sellars relies a great deal on close-ups, only going to wide shots occasionally. I found this surprising, and occasionally annoying, since his own careful theatrical visual compositions get cheated in the process. Also, extreme close-ups are not the most forgiving way of seeing stage wigs and make-up. On the other hand, it was nice to really be able to see the emotions on the singers' faces, and to realize what good actors most of them are. Even though they're playing in a large theater, most are subtle enough that these tight shots don't reveal tremendous over-acting, and give the opera a wonderfully intimate feel. Since a lot of the emotional drama of this opera is really internal, especially for both Richard and Pat Nixon, this close-up approach emphasizes the human as opposed to the spectacular, to strong effect.

On second viewing, the constant close ups seemed even more problematic. It struck me that much of what's going on in the opera is about the counterpoint in simultaneous 'conversations' and interactions. You might have Pat and Richard Nixon on one side of the stage, and Chairman Mao and his wife on the other. Or multiple groups at once in the 'big' scenes, all singing right over each other, 3 and 4 stories occurring simultaneously. But by relying so much on close ups and tight 2 shots, we lose some of the juxtapositions built into the music and staging. It works well in the truly intimate one-on-one scenes, but when there are many people on stage the close ups start to feel like they're interrupting the appreciation of the big picture.

The interviews conducted between acts are also less than thrilling. They tend to be very rushed, not giving time for any thoughtful or complex answers, and the interviewer has an irritating habit of chiming in and cutting off even those brief answers. I found myself skipping the interviews altogether after about the half-way point.

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