When the decade began, John Adams was a little-known, cheerfully earnest apostate from Eastern musical academia, based in San Francisco. There his relationship with the San Francisco Symphony--the highly influential model for the Meet the Composer residencies--blossomed with the premiere of "Harmonium" in 1981.
John Adams' 1981 "Harmonium" and subsequent pieces made the American orchestral rounds in the early '80s, as well as in Europe and Japan, and established Adams' at the top of the popular minimalist line.
Then came "Nixon in China," an opera/event three years in the making and seemingly almost as long in the hyping. Soon after the premiere in 1987, Adams was at work with librettist Alice Goodman and director Peter Sellars on a successor based on the Achille Lauro hijacking, "The Death of Klinghoffer," scheduled to premiere in Brussels in 1991.
Sellars' stagings and the potentially controversial subjects have spurred some of the scrutiny devoted to Adams' opera projects, but his music has sustained the attention. Though basically as consistently consonant and metronomic as other expressions of the user-friendly minimalist approach, Adams' music supports lyric reverie as easily as motor impulses, and exults in sophisticated permutations.