The "Chairman," of course, refers to Chairman Mao Tse-Tung in Adams' opera. Although it doesn't actually appear in the opera, some of the music is paraphrased in the third act. The conceit of Adams' piece takes its cue from the scenario for act three: during a formal state dinner, the formidable Madame Mao (who was a Shanghai movie actress in an earlier life) invites a 40-foot tall portrait of her husband to come down and dance a foxtrot, as if they were "back in Yenan, dancing to the gramophone."
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