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  • "Nixon in China", which was shown on April 15, 1988. Peter Sellars directed his usual wonderful cast of James Maddalena as Richard Nixon and Sandford Sylvan as Chou En-lai in John Adams' superb opera about Nixon's visit to China in February, 1972. (Alice Goodman's libretto was sculpted from the actual words of the historical characters.) One of the nicer touches was that Walter Cronkite, who followed the Nixon entourage, gave the historical grounding for the opera before the performance and then during the intermission.

    The music is lyrical and incantatory and the entire cast does it justice. And the staging!... I vividly remember the end of Act 1, when Nixon and Chou toast each other's countries ("Gambei") and as they clink glasses a score of newspaper photographers snap their pictures -- and then all the house lights went out! Wowzy-wow-wow! And Nixon's entrance, as he walks out of a huge mock-up of Air Force One and gives his stiff arms-up salute made me applaud wildly, and I am a flaming leftist.

    Ah, if only this were on DVD. Or even VHS. It's unfortunate that it can't be seen at all. After I emailed WNET, the original sponsors of "Great Performances", I received a response that said that they did not own the copyright and weren't really sure who did!

    Consider this posting a cry in the wilderness -- please, someone make this work of art available to us.
  • "Great Performances" is the longest running performing arts anthology on television. It is part of the PBS tradition of bringing the arts to viewers free of charge.