Nixon in China

Nixon in China

Oper in drei Akten

Libretto

Alice Goodman

Uraufführung

22. Oktober 1987, Houston

Besetzung

RICHARD NIXON, Präsident der USA (Bariton)
PAT NIXON, seine Frau (Sopran)
CHOU EN-LAI, chinesischer Premierminister (Bariton)
MAO TSE-TUNG, Parteivorsitzender (Tenor)
CHIANG CH'ING, Maos Gattin (Sopran)
HENRY KISSINGER (Bass)
ERSTE SEKRETÄRIN Maos (Mezzosopran)
ZWEITE SEKRETÄRIN Maos (Mezzosopran)
DRITTE SEKRETÄRIN Maos (Alt)
WU CHING-HUA (Tänzerin)
HUNG CHANG-CHING (Tänzer)

Ort

Peking

Zeit

Februar 1972

Adams, John

Adams, John Coolidge
15.2.1947 Worcester, Mass.


Bühnenwerke
mit Datum/Ort der Uraufführung:

Nixon in China (22.10.1987 Houston)
The Death of Klinghoffer (19.3.1991 Brussel)
I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky (11.5.1995 Berkeley)
Doctor Atomic (1.10.2005 San Francisco)



Nixon in China


ERSTER AKT
An einem kalten Februarmorgen 1972 landet das Flugzeug des amerikanischen Präsidenten Nixon, die »Spirit of 76«, in Peking. Der Präsident und seine Begleitung werden am Flugplatz von Chou-En-Lai begrüsst. Er hat Heer-, Marine-und Luftwaffen-Formationen aufmarschieren lassen. Später begegnen Nixon und Kissinger dem Staatschef Mao, der seine Gäste mit philosophischen Aussprüchen, politischen Bemerkungen und überraschenden Scherzen verblüfft. Die Sekretärinnen Maos notieren alle Worte. Am Abend geben die Chinesen ein grosses Fest, bei dem von einer neuen Zeit und von Verbrüderung die Rede ist.

ZWEITER AKT
Am nächsten Tag besichtigen Frau Nixon und ihre Begleitung Hotelküchen, die Ming-Gräber und den Sommerpalast der ehemaligen Kaiser, ausserdem eine Pekinger Glasfabrik. Abends im Hotel wünscht man sich gegenseitig alles Gute. Dann sieht Nixon in der Pekinger Oper ein Ballett, das die »Rote Abteilung der Frauen« tanzt. Das Stück spielt auf einer tropischen Insel und zeigt die Befreiung der Bauern von der Herrschaft der Grossgrundbesitzer.

DRITTER AKT
Die Amerikaner sind am letzten Tag ihres Besuchs ziemlich erschöpft. Noch einmal erörtern sie mit den chinesischen Führern die schwierige Weltlage und denken darüber nach, welche Fehler in der Vergangenheit gemacht wurden und was zukünftig besser gestaltet werden könnte. Dann fliegen die Amerikaner zurück in ihre Heimat. Sie sind wie die Chinesen von diesem Treffen hoch befriedigt.
ACT ONE
Chou En-Lai, a small group of officials, and contingents of China’s military forces are on hand to greet the arrival of President Nixon, the First Lady, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at an airfield outside Beijing. Elated, the President pauses to reflect on the historical significance of this encounter, which is being televised worldwide. He meets with Chairman Mao, who speaks largely in parables and veiled references. The President and Mrs. Nixon attend a banquet held in their honor; Premier Chou offers a toast to patriotic fraternity, the first of several throughout the evening.

Scene 1
Soldiers of heaven hold the sky (Chorus)
The people are the heroes now (Chorus)
Landing of the Spirit of '76
Your flight was smooth, I hope (Chou, Nixon)
News has a kind of mystery (Nixon, Chou, Kissinger, Chorus)

Scene 2
I can't talk very well. My throat… (Mao, Nixon, Chou, Kissinger, 3 Secretaries)
You know we'll meet with your confrere, the Democratic candidate (Mao, Nixon, Kissinger)
You've said that there's a certain well - known tree (Chou, Nixon, Mao, Kissinger, 3 Secretaries)
Founders come first, then profiteers (Mao, 3 Secretaries, Nixon, Chou, Kissinger)
We no longer need Confucius (Mao, 3 Secretaries)
Like the Ming Tombs (Nixon, 3 Secretaries, Mao, Chou)

Scene 3
The night is young (Nixon, Pat, Chou, Kissinger, Chorus)
Ladies and Gentlemen, Comrades and Friends (Chou, Chorus, Pat, Kissinger)
Mr. Premier, distinguished guests (Nixon, Chorus)
Cheers! (Chorus, Nixon, Chou, Pat, Kissinger)

ACT TWO
Mrs. Nixon tours a glass factory, a collective farm, and the Summer Palace. The Nixons attend an opera, The Red Detachment of Women, created by Mao’s wife, Chiang Ch’ing. The plight of the heroine, a downtrodden peasant girl, draws them into the action. Sensing that the Nixons have missed the ideological message of her opera, Chiang Ch’ing gives voice to her revolutionary fervor.

Scene 1
I don't daydream and don't look back (Pat)
Look down at the earth (Chorus, Pat, 3 Secretaries)
This is prophetic! (Pat)
At last the weather's warming up (Pat, Chorus)

Scene 2
Young as we are (3 Secretaries)
O what a day I thought I'd die! (Kissinger as Lao Szu, Chorus as Ching - hua, 3 Secretaries, Pat)
Whip her to death! (Kissinger as Lao Szu, Pat, Nixon)
Tropical Storm: There there, there there (Pat)
Flesh Rebels (Chorus as Militia)
I have my brief (Kissinger as Lao Szu, Nixon)
It seems so strange (Chorus as Ching - hua, Chiang Ch'ing, Pat, Nixon, 3 Secretaries)
I am the wife of Mao Tse - tung (Chiang Ch'ing, Chorus)

ACT THREE
During the last evening of the Presidential visit, the Nixons, Chairman Mao and Chiang Ch’ing, and Premier Chou reminisce privately about their lives.

Some men you cannot satisfy (Kissinger, Nixon, Pat, Chou, Chiang Ch'ing)
I am no one (Mao, Chou, Kissinger, Chiang Ch'ing, Pat)
The Maos Dance (Chiang Ch'ing, Mao, Pat, Nixon, Chou)
Sitting around the radio (Nixon, Pat)
Let us examine what you did (Mao, Chiang Ch'ing, Chou)
When I woke up I dimly realized the Jap Bombers had given us a miss (Nixon, Pat)
I have no offspring (Chou, Mao, Chiang Ch'ing)
I can keep still (Chiang Ch'ing)
After that the sweat had soaked my uniform (Nixon, Pat, Chiang Ch'ing, Mao, Chou)
Peking watches the stars (Chiang Ch'ing, Mao)
You won at poker (Pat, Nixon, Chiang Ch'ing, Mao)
I am old and I cannot sleep (Chou)
ACTE I
Le sujet est fondé sur le voyage du couple Nixon en Chine en février 1972, mettant en scène Mao et son épouse, Chou en Lai et H. Kissinger, opposant les cultures "occidentale" et locale, mais tendant surtout à mettre en lumière une certaine superficialité du Président américain, et à ridiculiser Kissinger (qui chante «Please, where's the toilet?»).

ACTE II
Pat Nixon entonne un «grand air» (This is prophetic), et les diplomates assistent à un ballet chinois, tandis que la révolution culturelle est également présentée sous son pire aspect.

ACTE III
Le dernier tableau, totalement fictif, offre une sorte de réflexion presque surréaliste sur les jugements autocritiques que portent sur leur passé Nixon, Mao et Chou En-lai, s'interrogeant sur ce qui en aurait été positif.
ATTO PRIMO
L’aereo presidenziale ‘The Spirit of ‘76’ rolla fino al punto d’arrivo nell’aeroporto di Pechino, accolto da un coro rivoluzionario delle Guardie Rosse (“Soldiers of heaven”). Ad accogliere Nixon, sua moglie Pat e gli altri ospiti c’è Chou En-lai, al quale il presidente rivela il peso della responsabilità storica che sente su di sé in quel momento (“Achieving a great human dream”). L’incontro ufficiale dei due presidenti avviene nello studio di Mao, che è circondato e accudito da tre segretarie. Gli statisti si accomodano, mentre i fotografi terminano il loro lavoro. La conversazione politica e filosofica procede in modo inaspettato per gli americani, che riescono a fatica a seguire gli scarti improvvisi e fantasiosi del pensiero di Mao. La sera stessa, un banchetto nella Sala del Popolo consente a Nixon e Chou En-lai di brindare con euforia e commozione allo schiudersi del nuovo scenario della storia, di cui essi sono stati gli artefici.

ATTO SECONDO
Ha per protagoniste le mogli dei due presidenti, Pat e l’ex-attrice Chiang Ch’ing. In una fredda mattina nevosa, la first lady rende visita al personale di servizio dell’hotel, che in segno di stima le dona un piccolo elefante in vetro soffiato. Il cerimoniale la conduce poi in una scuola e infine al Palazzo d’Estate. Qui, sotto la Porta della Longevità, ella si sofferma a riflettere sulle straordinarie esperienze che la vita, imprevedibilmente, le ha offerto (“This is prophetic!”). Al tramonto, la limousine sottrae Pat agli incanti della sera di Pechino. La giornata si conclude al Teatro dell’Opera: l’ospite americana assiste a una rappresentazione del balletto allegorico ‘Il distaccamento delle donne rosse’, uno spettacolo ideologico preteso e imposto da Chiang Ch’ing, che le siede accanto con occhiali scuri. In questa scena surreale, i Nixon reagiscono emotivamente allo stile hollywoodiano del balletto ed entrano senza rendersi conto nell’azione, cercando di portare aiuto alla protagonista frustata a morte da un personaggio che ha le sembianze di Kissinger. Alla testa dell’Esercito del Popolo (“Flesh rebels, the body pulls”), Chiang Ch’ing arringa gli spettatori (“I am the wife of Mao Tse-tung”).

ATTO TERZO
L’ultima notte a Pechino. I protagonisti sono tutti molto stanchi e provati. Le due coppie arricchiscono i momenti del commiato con lontani ricordi della loro vita: la tenda di Mao durante la Lunga Marcia, la nave su cui Nixon prestò servizio in guerra. La notte si acquieta sulle toccanti parole di Chou En-lai (“I am old and I cannot sleep”), la riflessione di un vecchio uomo che si interroga su quanto di buono resti di ciò che è stato fatto.

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