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Video Published: 05 Feb 2024

NEA Opera Honors: An Oral History with John Adams

In 2009, composer John Adams was awarded an NEA Opera Honors award and sat down for an interview about opera and their life.

This interview was originally posted by the NEA on May 1, 2010.
The Oral History Project is supported by the Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams Charitable Foundation. 

John Adams, composer

With intellectual and emotional intensity, composer John Adams has transformed the operatic landscape with works that confront the conundrums and moral complexities of our time. His stage works include Nixon in China (1987), The Death of Klinghoffer (1991), I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw the sky (1995), El Niño (2000), Doctor Atomic (2005), A Flowering Tree (2006), Girls of the Golden West (2017), and Antony and Cleopatra (2022). Among his other works are the song cycle The Wound-Dresser (1989), the orchestral pieces Harmonium (1981) and Shaker Loops (1983), and the Pulitzer Prize-winning On the Transmigration of Souls (2002). Adams, who is also a conductor, has been an innovative force within many musical organizations, including the San Francisco Symphony, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Adams made his literary debut in 2008 with Hallelujah Junction, a volume of memoirs and commentary on American musical life.

Adams was a 2009 recipient of the NEA Opera Honors, a program administered by the National Endowment for the Arts from 2008 to 2011. The NEA Opera Honors recipients are now recognized in OPERA America’s Opera Hall of Fame.

Oral History Project

Discover the full collection of oral histories at the link below.