"Let Us Not Be Misled": A Critical Appraisal of Characterization in John Adams's Nixon in China



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This thesis aims to examine and appraise the characterization of the major historical characters in John Adams’s opera Nixon in China: Richard Nixon, Pat Nixon, Mao Tse-tung, Chiang Ch’ing, Chou En-lai and Henry Kissinger. The first chapter outlines the motivations and intentions of Adams, Goodman, Sellars and other key collaborators. The heart of the thesis is the second chapter, which details and compares the representation of the six major historical personages to the historical record. Each character’s subsection will begin with a brief biography drawn from authoritative sources and will then proceed to critically appraise the figure as characterized in the opera. The third and final chapter will discuss the musical devices and techniques Adams employs to develop each character. The conclusion will briefly discuss the importance that direction and acting have in characterization.



Nixon in China, Adams, John