Chapter Forty of An Ecstatic Loneliness: The Marxist Priest Of Nixon In China
By Michael Moriarty
I began listening to the John Adams opera, Nixon In China, for the third time … and … well … after listening to Walter Cronkite's introduction again, I stopped shortly after the first scene.
Knowing there was, at no point in the score, a moment of un-hammered beauty?!
I stopped listening.
John Adams' rhythmic obsessions pound through everything, even the lyricism he occasionally engages in.
He doesn't woo us as a composer. He hammers at us with Brechtian arrogance.
Nixon In China is The Berliner Ensemble without Kurt Weil. The Chicago Bulls without Michael Jordan.
The politics of both Adams and his Pygmalion, Peter Sellars, are indisputably cultural stand-outs in the American Marxist Movement.
The only surprises coming in the music of Nixon In China are facts you can only fully view reading the score: the unrelenting opposition of two against three and three against four, jammed into metric changes from 4/4 to 3/4 to 5/8 to 7/8. All, as I said, living in the frictions between two against three and three against four.
Hours of that?!
An incessant repetition without pause.
The introduction and intermission breaks with the overly avuncular Walter Cronkite are a welcome relief … until you review the Marxist connection to a New World Order between Cronkite and the Progressive entourage that is revealed in this link. Please read it. As "the most trusted man in America," Walter Cronkite's Leftist biases flowered into a most effective propaganda machine.
Nixon In China hangs upon the souls of five of the most distasteful human beings in recent human history: Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Mao Zedong, his wife Chiang Ch'ing and Chou en Lai who, John Adams claims, is the hero of the opera.
This operatic "hero", to make Chou en Lai likable, seems lost on a planet for poets, a hideaway that remains so distant, mysterious and elusive that the only provable message Chou leaves us with is how comforting a rhyming Zen Koan can be.
Pat Nixon seems to be the only character of familiarly human feelings. She is wonderfully performed by the exquisitely sensitive Carolann Page.
The opera's Richard Nixon, despite the claim by John Adams that there would be no caricatures, sings his first pronouncement to a laugh from the audience and ends as confused and self-deluded as many of us always thought Richard Nixon to be.
There are impressive vocal moments from almost every character at times but nothing, amidst all the politics, that can move our hearts. Initially I, for one, was impressed and then felt nailed to my seat by the hammering. It is so unrelenting.
It is as if the metric complexities offered us have endowed the composer with the singular right to drown his audience in a minimalist's hell of repetition.
The Brechtian demand that "Attention must be paid!" is sledge-hammered into our skulls.
The most interesting deviance from strict Party Lines is how Chiang Ch'ing, Mao's wife, is presented as a pure villainess, a female Stalin.
Mao himself, author of agricultural policies that starved millions of Chinese to death, remains more of a "character" than a villain. His Red Book of sayings remains an intriguing mystery cushioned by Mao's unexpected humility as to its worth.
The libretto itself, when separated from the music, has rich possibilities for both lyricism and greater humor. Its poet, Alice Goodman, is an ordained Anglican priest.
This makes her the most interesting of the Nixon In China trinity of Sellars, Adams and Goodman.
A Christian Marxist?!
Barack Obama has basically displayed similar credentials but without the Roman collar.
Christian Marxism and a New World Order, I guarantee you, has proven to be America's death and a disease even within the Catholic Church. The Rockefeller Connection to, of all institutions, Notre Dame and its contradiction-in-terms, a pro-choice Catholic priest, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh?
They, the Christian Marxists, are all "pro-choice". My regular readers know all too well what I feel about Roe v Wade and pro-abortion Progressives.
Some Christian Marxists, as you will learn later in this article, can be philosophically anti-Israel; and, like Marxist George Soros, be Jewish.
All at the same time!
Many have been in Israel recently "demonstrating."
Peter Sellars' Marxism, as Wikipedia prefers to translate it, is to be a "progressively radical" artist of some sort.
With President Obama in the White House, the description can now be known as "radically Progressive": the "Progressively Baptist" Bill Clinton as versus the Radically Progressive Obama.
Radicalism, a la Van Jones, even as seen through the eyes of the Huffington Post, is the inevitability of the "Progressive" New World Order, whether you like it or not.
There is, however, one impressively dialectical twist in this drama: women such as Alice Goodman, the librettist.
She might be described as the metaphysically ultimate of oxymoronic combinations: a Marxist priest.
Because of the ministerial collar, she is what is sometimes referred to by the KGB hardliners as a "useful idiot"
Reverend Goodman is still a "Progressive" of the Progressively Baptist Bill Clinton sort.
The initial Wizard of Nixon In China happened to be the director, Peter Sellars.
The real Wizard, however, is Alice Goodman.
Ms. Goodman's love of God's mysteries seemed to have escaped even the hawk-eyed and progressively radical Peter Sellars. Either that or he simply endured the "mysteries" within Ms. Goodman's poetry as allowably Buddhist.
Communism is ultimately no sin to Buddhism. The Dalai Lama actually admits to being a Marxist.
Besides, the John Adams' musical portrait of Chou En-Lai contains the requisite, albeit poetic sentimentality required to sell Chou En-Lai to America as the real hero of Nixon In China.
Score a "Ten" for Karl Marx. With a Marxist priest, a "Fifteen".
The music, in fact "minimalism" in general, just seems a lazy way to whip out hours of agitation for a profoundly complex encounter between two massively powerful cultures.
Laying that aside, what kept me glued to the You Tube video of the Houston Opera Company's Production and inspired enough to buy the entirely expensive score was Alice Goodman's libretto.
All I wished to see was the libretto but then how will John Adams get his share of the profits from a poetess he and Peter Sellars singlehandedly made?!
Who taught them all Marxist economics?
Is this Marxism? Or just good ole American, villainous Capitalism?
Rev. Goodman does indeed spare no amount of operatic melodrama in examining both the heroine, Pat Nixon, and villainess, Chiang Ch'ing, of Nixon In China.
Her own romantic yearnings, God bless her, rise up in the disturbing mystery which Chou En-Lai leaves us hanging in at the end:
Outside this room the chill of grace
Lies heavy on the morning grass.
Hmmm … "the chill of grace" … a Marxist "Annunciation" … of sorts?
The birth of Van Jones in 1968?
An even more romantic pair of symbols also rise in the Cultural Revolution Ballet. This play-within-an-opera ballet and its hero and heroine, its Romeo and Juliet, caught amidst the Machiavellian nightmares within the Nixon In China opera itself?
Would Rev. Goodman had Rachmaninoff's powerful melancholy and Stravinsky's muscle to canonize the brilliant contrasts that sit and eagerly wait for a great composer.
Then again, those two composers were decidedly not Marxists.
Stravinsky was Russian Orthodox and exiled himself to, of all places, hamburger-eating, pre-Nixon California.
Ms. Goodman is a Marxist Christian. A Reverend no less. Rev. Goodman is certainly a big fan of Chou En-Lai. He's the hero of Nixon In China.
Hmmm … now there's the major question of not only this editorial, and this hour but this coming decade … and possibly this century … or human infinity.
Can there really be such a thing as a Marxist Christian?
The Dalai Lama himself is a Marxist and Chosen One of Buddha!
There was Liberation Catholicism running all around South America, wasn't there?
God and Karl Marx. The Almighty and The Grandest of Atheists!
Who can't see them married?!
The alternate lifestyle of a Marxist … no, the Community Organizing Fundamental of a Progressive New World Order!
"Let's wear down those ugly Americans such as Sarah Palin!!"
"If she becomes President America will have the West's version of Mao's Chiang Ching!!!"
"Maggie Thatcher in jack boots!!!!"
"Ronald Reagan in drag!!!!!"
"A virtual animal! Mamma Grizzly as POTUS!!!!!!"
"The solution is to surround these ‘stupid people' with not only their cultural superiors like Bill Maher The Atheist but their religious superiors such as Alice Goodman as well."
"They'll never be able to understand the divine subtleties within the Marriage of God and Karl Marx!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
"Match-making God and Karl is the only possible hope for peace, you know."
"If not, Judeo-Christians, you are toast!! Toast!!! Toast!!!!!"
Having spent three whole days with Nixon In China, I sympathize sincerely with Chou En-Lai's exhaustion in the final scene.
As for Henry Kissinger, the double for a villainous landowner in the Cultural Revolution Ballet?
Here he is as The 20th Century's Greatest Courtier.
Why am I so sure that both Goodman and Adams are Marxists?
Anticipating the increasingly obvious and desperately inevitable marriage of Marx and Islam, they both, along with Sellars as well, prophetically mind you, gave voice to the Palestinian version of Israel's "guilt" in their next opera, The Death of Klinghoffer.
Following "Nixon," the three collaborated on a second opera, "The Death of Klinghoffer," about the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking by Palestinians in which an elderly American Jew was killed. It premiered in 1991 but was promptly assailed by charges that it was anti-Semitic and glorified Palestinian terrorists. Several planned productions were canceled and the work has rarely been performed since, although the Opera Theater of St. Louis is presenting it next June.
Adams, Goodman and Sellars repeatedly claimed that they were trying to give equal voice to both Israelis and Palestinians with respect to the political background.
But the period of composition was a momentous one for Goodman personally. Raised a Reform Jew in St. Paul, Minn., she had married English poet Geoffrey Hill, and while writing "Klinghoffer" she converted to Christianity. She was later ordained as an Anglican priest and is currently winding up a stint as chaplain at Trinity College, Cambridge.
This Christian Marxist felt obliged to give two sides of the story in this second opera and here's a larger version of "The Death of Klinghoffer".
Can you hear the orchestra in full fortissimo?!
Not long ago I glimpsed the British version of Alice Goodman. It was Vanessa Redgrave sitting in the audience of the Tony Awards.
Both Goodman and Redgrave?
Oh, not both at The Tony Awards but brilliantly "useful talents" for the Communist Revolution.
The fact that God gave the two of them their talents seems a lie to the atheist Vanessa and a reason for Alice to make God a Marxist.
Now that's not a bad idea for an opera: Marx's conversion of God to Communism!
Obviously Alice Goodman is the only poet qualified to write the libretto since she obviously feels that is exactly what must have happened.
Alice Goodman, the Brechtian poet of Heaven.
Where's Kurt Weill when you need him?
And who could possibly sing the role of God?
If it's a movie?
The ghost of Frank Sinatra.
Italian Communism is, of course, as complex a thing as Alice Goodman might possibly enjoy impressing us with.
Unfortunately I doubt if Mr. Sinatra will want to even show up for rehearsal.
Karl Marx might be a tenor!
The tenor always steals the show from baritones in an opera.
God is not Wozzeck.
The Almighty is never quite that stupid.
Were Christ to return, what would he have to say to Rev. Goodman?
I think he'd either say nothing or hang out publically with Sarah Palin and The Tea Party.
It was for such "tasteless" associations that He was crucified in the first place.
Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor who starred in the landmark television series Law and Order from 1990 to 1994. His recent film and TV credits include The Yellow Wallpaper, 12 Hours to Live, Santa Baby and Deadly Skies. Contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/@MGMoriarty.