The Nixon Tapes

VIVID Live at Sydney Opera House & Opera Australia presents

The Nixon Tapes

Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House

The Nixon Tapes

Scenes from Nixon In China

Adams, Dessner, Greenwood: these are living composers with something to say, especially when given an orchestra and a few superhuman voices to say it with. This is an extraordinary era for music.

Opera Australia performs in Vivid LIVE for the first time this year with a remarkable program of contemporary works. It culminates in the Sydney premiere of The Nixon Tapes — scenes from John Adams’ operatic debut Nixon in China, refashioned for the concert hall by the composer himself.

The acclaimed Opera Australia Orchestra begins the evening with orchestral works by contemporary music giants Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead) and Bryce Dessner (The National).

Both musicians play in bands renowned for their invention and musicality. These qualities brilliantly manifest in Greenwood’s cinematic Popcorn Superhet Receiver. He adapted the work to score There Will be Blood, the 2007 Oscar-winning film. Dessner’s unsettling St Carolyn by the Sea is a perfect partner.

This concert joins a series around the world celebrating Adams at 70. Adams' debut opera Nixon in China was startling in its simplicity: an elegant, melodic representation of a moment that changed history. At its premiere, the opera was called “an operatic triumph of grave and thought-provoking beauty” (Chicago Sun-Tribune). Three decades have not diminished its class or significance. It remains a compelling work.

In The Nixon Tapes, five Opera Australia soloists, the Opera Australia Orchestra and Chorus will perform highlights of the score, including the iconic landing of the presidential plane and Madame Mao’s terrifying ‘I am the wife of Mao Tse-tung’.


JONNY GREENWOOD Popcorn Superhet Receiver
BRYCE DESSNER St Carolyn by the Sea
JOHN ADAMS The Nixon Tapes, Scenes from Nixon in China

Act 1, Scene 1 Overture, ‘Soldiers of Heaven’, Landing of Air Force One, ‘Your flight was smooth’, ‘News has a kind of mystery’
Act 1, Scene 3 'The Great Hall of the People'
Act 2, Scene 1 ‘This is Prophetic’
Act 2, Scene 2 ‘I am the wife of Mao Tse-tung’


Andrew Mogrelia

Guitar Zane Banks
  Jy-Perry Banks
The Nixon Tapes  
Chiang Ch'ing (Madame Mao Tse-Tung) Eva Kong
Chou En-Lai Christopher Tonkin
Richard Nixon Luke Gabbedy
Henry Kissinger David Parkin
Pat Nixon Jane Ede

Opera Australia Orchestra

Opera Australia Chorus

Approximately 1 hour and 55 minutes, including one interval.

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