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In the short final act, all sense of naturalism is lost as the characters in their different bedrooms explore their relationships. Adams/Goodman/Sellars counterpoint the Nixons' reminiscences with Chou En-lai's worries and the Mao's rekindling of their relationship. Mao (Adrian Thomson) manages to fit in sex with Madame Mao (Judith Howarth in vamp mode) and two aides.
This short last act somehow made sense of the work and I wished that the long first act (well over an hour) had not been so in love with its CNN vision of events.
Mark Stone as Chou En-lai and Judith Howarth as Chiang Ch'ing (Madame Mao Tse-tung). Photo © 2006 English National Opera and Alistair Muir
All the performances were outstanding. James Maddalena has been identified with the title role since the premier and can hardly be bettered, though the upper register of his voice was showing signs of wear. Janis Kelly similarly inhabited Pat Nixon's roles and brought Kelly's familiar commitment to all aspects of the role, even during the long periods when she is on stage but not singing.
Copyright © 2 July 2006
Robert Hugill, London UK