Tag Archives: Nixon in China

6 American Operas to Listen to on July 4

These operas capture the American spirit and explore its history. When planning your Fourth of July festivities, add opera to your menu with your burgers and fireworks to celebrate our nation’s independence.

Porgy & Bess

Marietta Simpson (left) as Maria and Indira Mahajan (right) as Bess in Porgy and Bess (2007); Photo: Robert Millard

Marietta Simpson (left) as Maria and Indira Mahajan (right) as Bess in Porgy and Bess (2007); Photo: Robert Millard

Last performed by LAO in 2007, George Gershwin’s iconic work is the epitome of American opera. Set in 1912 South Carolina, the plot follows the story of street beggar Porgy, who seeks to rescue Bess from the clutches of her brutal lover and drug dealer. Heavily influenced by jazz, blues and spirituals, the score is a perfect summertime listen. You may even already be familiar with the iconic piece thanks to recordings by Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Stewart and countless other recording artists of all genres, which made its most famous song, “Summertime,” a pop culture phenomenon.

Little Women


Composer-librettist Mark Adamo turned Louisa May Alcott’s classic tale of four sisters growing up in post-Civil War New England into a contemporary American operatic masterpiece.  Premiered in 1998 in Houston with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato (LAO’s dazzling 2009 Rosina in The Barber of Seville) in the leading role of Meg, it has rapidly become one of the most frequently performed operas of our time.

A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

A Streetcar Named Desire (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

Based on the very operatic Tennessee Williams play, André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire begins with Blanche DuBois’ arrival in 1940s New Orleans. Clinging to a masquerade of Southern grace, she moves into her sister’s cramped apartment, creating all the wrong kinds of sparks with her crude brother-in-law. When dark truths about Blanche’s past begin to emerge, her world comes apart at the seams in a spiral of violence and madness. LAO’s 2014 performances starred Renée Fleming, who created the role of Blanche at the opera’s 1995 San Francisco premiere.

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Opera: A Community Treasure

Today, National Opera Week kicks off. Running through November 1, National Opera Week is a great opportunity to celebrate opera’s positive impact on communities around the country (and to a larger extent, the world). This got us thinking. What are some of the ways that opera influences community?

It brings us together.

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Guests enjoy Gianni Schicchi (2015) at Opera at the Beach

Putting together an operatic production is a feat of epic proportions. Since opera is an amalgamation of several art forms, various artists (singers, designers, writers, even filmmakers) join together for one singular purpose: to bring a story to life.

Yet, opera brings not only artists together. Opera is for all those willing to experience timeless stories, staged theatrically, and sung by the most engaging voices of our time. This can mean a night out in Downtown Los Angeles at the Dorothy Chandler or a date night at Santa Monica Pier for a live HD simulcast at Opera at the Beach.

It educates us about history, society, social responsibility, and just about anything else you can imagine.

 The cast of Nixon in China (1990); Photo Credit: Frederic Ohringer

The cast of Nixon in China (1990)

Did you know that there’s an opera about Richard Nixon called Nixon in China? Several operas are based on Shakespeare plays and Greek myths that tackle the big themes: love, humanity’s purpose, revenge. There are even short operas based on themes of social responsibility that form the crux of our Opera Camp program. Operas make people think in different ways; they can teach us to see the world through a new lens.

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Iconic Productions: Nixon in China

Nixon in China imagines what history cannot tell us and what none of the participants in the trip was able to articulate. The opera is not about what I meant for Nixon to go to China, it is an opera about what it felt like to be Nixon in China. It is not an opera about what Nixon did for China, but what China did for Nixon.” – Mark Swed, classical music critic for the Los Angeles Times.

LA Opera presented John Adams’ acclaimed Nixon in China in 1990, a production directed by Peter Sellars.

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