Personalities | John Adams | Modern Era | Opera

b. 1947, American

One of the most influential musical figures of his generation, John Adams draws on numerous genres, including jazz, ragtime, swing, pop and rock. Indeed, although he has often been labelled a minimalist, Adams is more expressive than many such composers; his mature works blend the rhythmic energy associated with this style to the harmonic interest and colour of late Romanticism.

His first opera, Nixon in China (composed 1984–87), began his musical odyssey by masterfully marrying poetry and music. Adams studies characters from the modern world, eschewing mythological and historical figures, and instead of simply tracing the events of a diplomatic visit, he infuses his characters with life by way of music and poetry. Nixon in China saw librettist Alice Goodman, stage director Peter Sellars and choreographer Mark Morris form a dynamic collaboration that resumed in 1991 with The Death of Klinghoffer, an opera focusing on the 1985 Palestinian hijacking of an Italian cruise ship. Other staged works followed, before Adams was commissioned to write his next full-length opera for San Francisco’s 2005–06 season. Doctor Atomic explores the life and work of nuclear scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, and borrows the structure of 1950s sci-fi movies.

Introduction | Modern Era | Opera
Major Operas | Nixon in China by John Adams | Modern Era
Personalities | Thomas Adès | Modern Era | Opera
Techniques | Minimalism | Modern Era | Opera


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