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Some men you cannot satisfy

Opera details:

Opera title:

Nixon in China

Composer:

John Coolidge Adams

Language:

English

Synopsis:

Nixon in China Synopsis

Libretto:

Nixon in China Libretto

Translation(s):

Not entered yet.

Recitative details:

Type:

recitative

Role(s):

Henry Kissinger / Richard Nixon / Pat Nixon / Chou En-lai / Chiang Ch'ing / Mao Tse-tung

Voice(s):

Bass / Baritone / Soprano / Baritone / Soprano / Tenor

Act:

3.01

Previous scene: I am the wife of Mao
Next scene: I am old and I cannot sleep

Libretto/Lyrics/Text/Testo:

(It is the last night in Peking. The President is very,
very tired: the lights do not flatter him. The First Lady
looks fragile and heavily powdered. Madame Mao is
smaller than they had remembered her. And Chou En-
lai seems old and quite worn out. Only Chairman Mao
appears at his best, full of the joy of youth and the hope
of revolution in his picture on the wall. Dr. Kissinger is
impatient. He scratches the back of his neck, his nose,
and his ear)


KISSINGER
Some men you cannot satisfy.


NIXON
That's what I tell them.


KISSINGER
They can't say you didn't tell them.


NIXON
It's no good.
All that I say is misconstrued.


(To Pat)

Your lipstick's crooked.

PAT
Is it? Oh.
There isn't much that I can do,
is there? Who's seen my handkerchief?


CHOU
Please accept mine.


HUNG CHIANG CH'ING
I've heard enough.
Who chose these numbers?


KISSINGER
All of us.
Doesn't she like the people's choice?


NIXON
Now for a solo on the spoons!


PAT
I like it when they play our tunes.


HUNG CHIANG CH'ING
This should be better. Hit it, boys!


PAT
Oh! California! Hold me close.


MAO
I am no one.


CHOU
We fight, we die.
And if we do not fight we die.


KISSINGER
That's how it goes.


MAO
I am unknown.
Give me a cigarette.


HUNG CHIANG CH'ING
Come down.
Give me your hand, old man.


MAO
Why not?


HUNG CHIANG CH'ING
(To Mao)
Let's dance.


MAO
Give me a cigarette.


(She takes his hand and he climbs out of the portraits'
background)


CHOU
And to what end? Tell me.


KISSINGER
Premier, Please, where's the toilet?


CHOU
Through that door.


KISSINGER
Excuse me for one moment, please.


(Kissinger exits at the double)

CHOU
We saw our parents' nakedness;
rivers of blood will be required
to cover them. Rivers of blood.


PAT
I squeezed your pay check till it screamed,
there was the rent, there were those damned
slipcovers, and the groceries.


NIXON
You made that place a home.


PAT
That place was heaven next to this.


(Mao and Chiang Ch'ing begin to dance)

** NIXON
You should think positive. Try not to brood.


PAT
The trouble was,
we moved too much.
We should have stayed put,
Dick.


HUNG CHIANG CH'ING
We'll teach these motherfuckers how to dance!


CHOU
It makes me sick. **


MAO
We did this once before


HUNG CHIANG CH'ING
Oh? When?


MAO
It was the time that tasty little starlet came
to infiltrate my headquarters.


HUNG CHIANG CH'ING
Go on!


PAT
I thank my lucky stars
I kept those letters that you wrote
from the Pacific. Seems like that
was the best time of all; you had
my picture, and each night I read your mind.


NIXON
What an idealist.


CHOU
A bankrupt people repossessed
the ciphers of its history
and not one character could say
whether the war was over yet
or if they'd written off the debt.


MAO
What did she call herself? Lan P'ing?


HUNG CHIANG CH'ING
You named me. I was very young.


NIXON
There was so much I couldn't tell.


PAT
Such as?


MAO
You were a little fool.


HUNG CHIANG CH'ING
And your best pupil.


CHOU
In Yenan we were just boys.


MAO
Revolution is a boys' game.


CHOU
I have grown old and done no more work than a child.


NIXON
Sitting round the radio
with the enlisted men, I knew
my time had come. The signal cleared
transmitting nothing like a word.
There was a cross round one guy's neck.
I noticed that.


PAT
You told me, Dick.


NIXON
The corrugated metal roof
shook in the rain.
The men were safe.
I said goodbye to you then, Pat.


PAT
Did you?


NIXON
Then I began to wait.
The rain seeped in under the door.
The lights went out.


PAT
You told me, dear.


NIXON
That was the time I should have died.


MAO
Let us examine what you did.
we led a quiet life,
we grew stronger,
we walked behind the plow.
And as we worked year after year
the yellow dust that filled the air
softened the Buddha's well-known face
and made him seem like one of us


HUNG CHIANG CH'ING
We ate wild apricots.


CHOU
The taste is in my mouth.
Once we had roast
and a light film of dust
settled on each plate.
Your few subjectivist mistakes ...


HUNG CHIANG CH'ING
Small lizards basked among the rocks,
warm as your hand.


MAO
Only confirm mythology's eternal charm;
roused from a state of seeming rest
its landscape offers up the ghost,
an ancient tactical retreat,
retrenched in the inanimate.
These things were men.


NIXON
When I woke up
I dimly realized the Jap
bombers had given us a miss...


** It was the weather I suppose **

PAT
Thank heaven for that.


NIXON
Then I went out already it was meeting hot,
a cloud of steam rose from the base
just like a Roman sacrifice.


PAT
I never doubted you'd come back.
I always knew.


NIXON
I felt so weak with disappointment and relief
everything seemed larger than life.


CHOU
I have no offspring. In my dreams
the peasants with their hundred names,
unnamed children and nameless wives
deaden my footsteps like dead leaves;
no one I killed, but those I saw
starved to death.


MAO
Saved from our decay.
Admire that perfect skeleton,
those veins, that skin like cellophane.
Take them and press them in a book.
Dare we behave as if the meek
will mark the places of the wise?


HUNG CHIANG CH'ING
The masses stride ahead of us.
We follow.


CHOU
Only they can tell how the land lies,
where the pitfall was excavated, the mines laid...


MAO
The instant before bombs explode
intricate struggles coexist within an entity,
embraced till they ignite.


HUNG CHIANG CH'ING
I can keep still,
I can say footing for a while,
while the sparks die high in the air
the sun moves on. Nothing I fear
has ever harmed me, why should you?
Marshal your forces, I'll lie low.
The drought has made me thin and strong.
When they took off their coasts and hung
them over branches, and the pick
scraped this eroded ground,
I shook with pure excitement.


NIXON
After that...


PAT
A penny for your thoughts.


NIXON
The sweat had soaked my uniform,


** my hair dripped down my forehead... **

PAT
Did it dear?
You've always suffered terribly
from nervous perspiration.


NIXON
I began to take in all the sights.
Picture a thousand coconuts
like mandrills' heads or native masks,
milk oozing from their broken husks,
the flooded rib of a palm frond
where several centipedes had drowned,
unsanded wood that smelled like meat...
Jesus, it grabbed you by the throat.


PAT
Wonder what I was doing then?
Dressing up as if you'd walk in at any moment.
Go on, dear.
Don't let me interrupt.


NIXON
The war was dislocated. Hold a shell
up to your ear. Guadalcanal
sounds distant, roughly like the sea.


MAO
As they advance
we melt away into the underbrush;
we strike while they're asleep,
a single spark sets them alight.
Cast the net wide and draw it in.


CHOU
The east is red;
as we ride eastwards to Peking
preoccupied with our last long
triumphant march, the early light
embalms each soldier on the route


** MAO
Well said! **


HUNG CHIANG CH'ING
Peking watches the stars,
Nanking slips naked.
Murderers stretch out in doorways in Shanghai.
Chungking's old-fashioned armory lies undefended.
Yenan rests like a wise virgin.
All the coasts are clear,
and all the oceans still as we ride eastwards.


MAO
We recoil from victory and all its works.
What do you think of that, Karl Marx?
Speak up!


HUNG CHIANG CH'ING
We should go underground.
The revolution must not end.


MAO
As we ride eastwards to Peking
I shut my eyes and, listening
Hard, hear the old harmonium
we left behind, I-I-I dream
that shoals of small transparent fish
race down a shallow river.


** HUNG CHIANG CH'ING
Hush. **


PAT
You won at poker.


NIXON
I sure did.
I had a system. Five-card stud
taught me a lot about mankind.
Speak softly and don't show your hand
became my motto.


PAT
Tell me more.


NIXON
Well, the Pacific theater
was not much to write home about.


PAT
Yes, dear. I think you told me that.
I read it while I did my hair
and put it in my stocking drawer
with all the others.


NIXON
I was "Nick".
I must have told you that.


PAT
Yes, Dick.


NIXON
Christ, it was beautiful.
I swapped spam for hamburger meat
and roped in a few men to rig a stand.
They called it "Nick's Snack Shack".
I found the smell of burgers on the grill
made strong men cry.
Now, Bougainville was a refuelling stop...


PAT
I know.
Each fighter pilot that came through got
a free burger and a beer.


NIXON
Done to a turn:
medium - rare,
rare, medium, well-done, anything you say.
The Customer is King.
Sorry we're low on relish. Drinks?
This is my way of saying thanks.

English Libretto or Translation:

Not entered yet.