Huang Ruo’s captivating chamber opera, “Bound,” made its highly anticipated premiere at Seattle Opera’s Tagney Jones Hall.
The opera sheds light on the enduring discrimination faced by Asian Americans, a social issue that has persisted since the enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Act in the late 1800s. Huang Ruo, a prominent Chinese composer, openly explores these themes, creating a thought-provoking, visually stunning, and musically intense work. Teaming up with librettist Bao-Long Chu, a Vietnamese poet, both artists made their Seattle Opera debuts, showcasing their impressive talents and expertise.
“Bound” narrates the experiences of second-generation Asian immigrants who grapple with their cultural heritage while striving to be fully embraced as Americans. Inspired by the true story of a high school student imprisoned due to truancy, the opera delves into the conflicts between individual aspirations and familial obligations.
The characters in “Bound” are intricately bound in their own ways. Diane Tran, the protagonist portrayed masterfully by Karen Vuong, grapples with the rules and expectations of being a second-generation Asian adult, constantly torn between her family, work, and education. Khanh, Diane’s mother, haunted by guilt and memories, remains tied to her immigrant past. Judge Moriarty, who sentences Diane to imprisonment, represents an unjust system lacking empathy and understanding.
Huang shared with The Seattle Times that he aspires to fill every performance with a diverse audience, showcasing how opera reflects the lives and times of contemporary society. He firmly believes that opera is not solely for the elite few, as it reflects the diverse experiences of many.
Featured Image Source: Seattle Opera