Deutsche Oper Berlin

Nixon in China


Bismarckstraße 35, 10627 Berlin

John Adams


Opera in three acts
Libretto by Alice Goodman

Two of the most powerful men in the world shake hands - and the world watches: With their opera about the state visit of American President Richard Nixon to Mao Tse-tung in 1972, composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman brought contemporary history to the stage ... 

About the work
Two of the world’s most powerful men shake hands – as the world looks on. With their opera about the state visit by US President Nixon to China in 1972 composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman rendered a recent historical event in operatic form. They envisioned a »heroic opera« telling of modern myths and the power of images. This rapprochement between the two great powers gave rise to one of the most prodigious media spectacles of the 20th century. Nixon himself put the event on a par with the moon landing. The opera, whose composition was pushed for by Peter Sellars, the director of the eventual premiere, is a depiction of both the details of the visit and the coverage by the media. Alice Goodman’s libretto reflects the tradition of 19th-century opera, with larger-than-life characters interacting and the protagonists dealing with both affairs of state and their private lives. Staged in the style of an excessively satirical documentary, the minimal-music opera sticks close to protocols from the state visit, depicting the larger-than-life protagonists swerving between exhibitionism, helplessness and the desire to reach a mutual understanding.

36 years after the world premiere this will be the first new production of NIXON IN CHINA to be mounted by the Deutsche Oper Berlin. With his works featuring prominently on opera house programmes, John Adams is, alongside Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Terry Riley, one of the key exponents of minimal music, an art form that sprang up in the 1960s as a response to the European avant-garde. Yet the opera, arguably Adams’s best known, eludes this kind of narrow categorisation due to its hybrid character, even if it is emblematic of the minimal-music style. With its rich tonal orchestrations and trancelike repetitions, the work shows sound wizard John Adams including flurries of big-band swing and allusions to European classical music.

About the production
Hauen und Stechen, the musical-theatre collective centring on Julia Lwowski and Franziska Kronfoth, is known for its performative authorial style and its topical, genre-blending theatre evenings. Their staging of NIXON IN CHINA focuses primarily on the propaganda aspect of the summit, which pointedly avoided discussing delicate issues such as the Vietnam War and the status of Taiwan. Following on from their stage event in response to Rossini’s IL VIAGGIO A REIMS as part of the AMBUSHED FROM BEHIND series, the collective now returns to the Deutsche Oper Berlin with its first production for the main stage.


Daniel Carter
Hauen und Stechen
Artistic direction
Franziska Kronfoth / Julia Lwowski
Kyle Miller
Chou En-lai
Thomas Lehman
Richard Nixon
Seth Carico
Henry Kissinger
Karis Tucker
Nancy T'ang, Mao's first secretary
Elissa Pfaender
Mao's Second Secretary
Davia Bouley
Mao's third secretary
Ya-Chung Huang
Mao Tse-tung
Heidi Stober
Pat Nixon
Hye-Young Moon
Chiang Ch’ing, Mao's Wife
Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin
Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin
Yassu Yarbara
Set design
Christina Schmitt
Costume design
Henning Streck
Light design
Jeremy Bines
Chorus Master
Martin Mallon
Carolin Müller-Dohle


Share this event

Deutsche Oper Berlin

Bismarckstraße 35, 10627 Berlin

To enable Google Maps please accept functional cookies.

Your new app


Get the free app directly on your mobile:

  • Browse and book all concerts, operas and ballet events in Berlin
  • Save up to 90% thanks to our permanently low prices
  • Network with the community and share your experience