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A No Vote for 'Nixon'

September 29, 1990

Martin Bernheimer's cogent review (Sept. 13) of the John Adams-Alice Goodman opera "Nixon in China" lets me reflect anew on the utter gutlessness of the work, or perhaps merely of its creators.

When I first heard that Adams was writing an opera about Richard Nixon, I thought, how splendid! It could be a character study of a brilliant, family-loving, articulate leader who is corrupted by power-greed and false advisers--rather like "Boris Godunov." Or had I heard it was to be about political intrigue and feminine succession in mysterious China, I might have thought, oh boy, another "Turandot."

The work, of course, is neither. It is the sort of opera that went out of fashion with "La Clemenza di Tito," namely, a tale of how wonderful some past political leader was (and, by extension, how great the present one is too).

How utterly trivial is this array of cutesy little vignettes of gosh-wow reception lines and pig-calling. There is nothing of real opera, apart from a screeching solo for Madame Mao and a Henry Kissinger looking like the drunken uncle in an uncut "Madama Butterfly" (a far more telling opera about East-West relations, to be sure). What a missed opportunity!

MATTHEW B. TEPPER

Los Angeles

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