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St. Louis.

Considerable interest was attached to the first new production since Peter Sellars' well-travelled one of John Adams' Nixon in China, mounted by Opera Theatre of St. Louis. What James Robinson and his set designer, Allen Moyer, accomplished in so small a space with so many people was extraordinary. Robinson's handling of the chorus, in particular, was brilliant, while Moyer's set, with its television monitors, caught the spirit of the times. This opera is vast in scope (with two intermissions, it lasted about three hours and 15 minutes), consisting of full-scale arias for the principals as well as a fairly lengthy ballet sequence. The libretto by Alice Goodman is quite dense, and it was a pity that so many words were unintelligible. The composer did not make it easy for his singers. Much of the opera's success in St. Louis came from Marin Alsop's authoritative command of the musical forces, and she received a big ovation from both audience and orchestra. Robert Orth, looking uncannily like Nixon, was perfect for the title role, suggesting both Nixon's egomania and his humanity. Maria Kanyova brought a sweetness to Pat Nixon. Jan Opalach portrayed the dark presence of Henry Kissinger, Mark Duffin the ailing Mao and Canadian Tracy Dahl, in a welcome return to St. Louis, tackled the high tessitura of Madame Mao's role with her accustomed skill. Chen-Ye Yuan made a sympathetic Chou En-lai.

This season marked the debut of the COC's Sandra Horst as the OTSL chorusmaster, following in the distinguished footsteps of Donald Palumbo and Cary John Franklin. I am happy to report the chorus is still magnificent. Its contribution to this year's operas was enormous, its musicality and precision exemplary.
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Title Annotation:United States
Author:Dennis, Lawrence
Publication:Opera Canada
Date:Sep 22, 2004
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