Richard Nixon’s historic 1972 visit to China – the first time that a US President had visited the People’s Republic – is considered one of the major successes of his presidential career. In fact, opening up relations with China was an achievement powerful enough to, almost, stand against the Watergate scandal in popular memory of the 37th president of the USA.

And it is to this historic event, rather than the scandals, that composer John Adams turned for his first – now his most famous – opera, excerpts of which will be performed in Sydney as part of the Vivid LIVE Festival, conducted by Andrew Mogrelia. Opera Australia’s performance of The Nixon Tapescelebrates the composer’s 70th birthday – but this is not the first milestone Mogrelia has marked for the composer.

John Adams Composer John Adams.

Ten years ago, while he was Music Director of the orchestra at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Mogrelia invited Adams for a week-long residency to celebrate the composer’s 60th. “We had first met some 15 years before in Birmingham in the UK when I had started conducting some of his orchestral works,”...