The Naxos label’s recording of John Adams’ Nixon in China for Opera Colorado, featuring Colorado Symphony Conductor Laureate Marin Alsop and the Colorado Symphony, is receiving rave reviews. The recording was made live at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver, Colorado from June 6-14, 2008.
Only the second recording in history of Adams’ Nixon in China, this release has caught the attention of critics throughout the classical music industry from Opera News and BBC Music Magazine to the Financial Times and e-Music. Music lovers and critics across the country and around the world are praising this release as a new standard in the genre.
The live performances of Nixon in China at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in June 2008 were presented as a part of the National Performing Arts Convention and League of American Orchestras Conference.
In a review of this Naxos recording for Audiophile Audition, Mike Birman states:
This live recording made in Denver in 2008, with Marin Alsop conducting the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and the Opera Colorado Chorus, is a superb realization of a difficult opera to bring to dramatic fruition. By its nature minimalism has a motoric sameness that can easily slip into repetitive drudgery. Adams avoids a mechanical homogeneity from creeping into his music by varying dynamics and by making it highly directional in its forward motion. Alsop emphasizes the contrasts found in this score, revealing all of its dramatic possibilities and insuring that it is always emotionally satisfying. She does a superb job in bringing this music to life, as do the soloists who are exemplary. The orchestra sounds committed and plays with a thrilling bravado when the drama is heightened. This is a brilliantly realized performance of one of our finest modern operas.
The recording also received top placement in Opera News as Critic’s Choice with the headline stating, “Marin Alsop leads a vigorous new recording of John Adams’ Nixon in China that affirms the opera’s status as a modern classic.” In the review, Joshua Rosenblum states:
Conductor Marin Alsop’s approach – vigorous and transparent – is apparent right out of the gate, as the pulsing A-minor scales begin their cyclical variations. Orchestra clarity is unfailingly impressive. When the Opera Colorado Chorus enters a couple of minutes later, it’s clear they have been drilled with the same emphasis on precision. Alsop makes the Colorado Symphony Orchestra sound like a force to be reckoned with – even more vital than the Orchestra of St. Luke’s under Edo de Waart in 1987.
“I'm thrilled with the critical response to our debut venture,” said Marin Alsop, “and I’m pleased that our collaboration has brought so much attention to this terrific opera.” Currently music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop’s ever expanding list of acclaimed recordings for Naxos continues to grow. Known for championing contemporary music by American composers, she has also received much critical acclaim for her Brahms symphony cycle recorded with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. When asked in an interview for the Spring 2010 issue of Listen magazine about the legacy she hopes to leave through her recordings, Alsop states, “I hope it would be to bring a special perspective to a range of repertoire, from the Brahms symphonies…all the way through Dvořák with Baltimore and John Adams’ Nixon in China. So I hope that it’s bringing some kind of special connection with the composer, regardless of the era or the nationality. I think American music has played a big role in my career for any number of reasons, not least of which is that it was a good entrée for me.”
"The number of extremely positive reviews has been overwhelming and I am thrilled to have achieved such a prominent feature in Opera News,” stated Executive Director of Opera Colorado Gregory Carpenter, who is pleased by the outstanding critical acclaim the recording is receiving. “Our collaboration with the Colorado Symphony has been tremendously gratifying and is a testament to the exceptional quality of the performing arts in Denver.”
“We are delighted to continue our long, ongoing partnership with Opera Colorado and to celebrate the advent of a recording relationship with this seminal American work,” said Colorado Symphony President & CEO James W. Palermo . “John Adams’ masterpiece is given a magnificent performance by the combined forces, demonstrating the depth of musical accomplishment of the performing arts in Denver .”
Naming it CD of the month in December 2009, Classic FM’s Andrew Mellor stated, “Alsop lets you hear the workings of the music… Adams ’s score hasn’t dated a bit. It’s come up gleaming anew. And at budget price, Naxos’ Nixon really is one for our times.” On e-Music’s best albums of 2009 list, this recording of Nixon in China landed at number 21.