With opera being one of the most exhilarating forms of escapism the human race has yet devised, you might suppose it would offer respite from the grubby chicanery of contemporary politics, but since John Adams’s Nixon in China debuted, in 1987, such quaint assumptions no longer apply. While the Nixon gang—led by that perennial provocateur Peter Sellars, with Alice Goodman on board as librettist—went boldly where no one had gone before, these days traffic on the highway of so-called CNN opera is heavy. Just this month, fans have three specimens of the genre to choose from.
In Houston, Opera in the Heights presents the world premiere of Evan Mack and Joshua McGuire’s Yeltsin in Texas, inspired by Boris Yeltsin’s unscheduled visit to a supermarket in that city in 1989. A rising star in Russia with the Soviet presidency in his near future, Yeltsin took a look around and simply could not believe his eyes. At home, he declared, not even Gorbachev enjoyed this kind of selection. If Russian consumers, who spent their lives queuing up to buy basics, got wind of this, he added, there would be a revolution. (Oh no! Not again!) Following previews earlier this month in Fort Worth, the opera opens in Houston on February 22.