April 13- 18, 2019
Baruch Performing Arts Center
(55 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10010)
Music by Huang Ruo
Libretto by Bao-Long Chu
This opera imagines a story based on that particular phrase. Chamber opera BOUND is about duties bounded to people and the sincere decision one has to make and choose. The Vietnamese (Eastern) idea of “family first” is in conflict with the American (Western) notion of the individual’s success. The Mother “Khanh” leaves her husband and children because she has found a new voice, one that has been squashed by her husband’s old fashioned notion of the subservient wife. Her immigrant experience has forced her to take care of her family first. Also, she has often been haunted by the war-trauma and determines to escape by leaving her family. But she has passed down the guilt of “serving” to Diane, who effectively becomes her Mother: she works two jobs to take care of her brother and sister and her father is never home. Between her personal needs (school) and family duty, she chooses the later as she is bounded to it. The choice judge Moriarty has to make, also presents a dilemma. As a father of a teenage, he has to choose either forgiving Diane or enforcing the law of the land. Bounded to the duty of his job, he sentences Diane to prison although he also felt for her and has pity on her. During the entire opera, the stories of the past and present are interwoven.
Librettist, Bao-Long Chu, says about the work: “To me, a Vietnamese refugee living in America, the notion of being bound to one’s culture (and the struggles therein) is not just an idea, but my life writ large.”
The story of Diane Tran and her struggle of being torn into different directions – between Eastern and Western ideologies – is so common amongst first and second generation immigrants trying to make lives for themselves in the United States. Especially today, when the very concept of immigration is being challenged at the highest levels of our government, it is of the utmost importance to present perspectives, narratives, and stories that depict the real-life struggles and situations immigrants face every day – to humanize them, and to educate others.
Fang Tao, Diane Tran
Guang Yang, Khan
Andrew Wannigman, Stanley
Daniel Klein, Judge Moriarty
Huang Ruo, composer
Alex Wen, music director
Ashley Tata, stage director
Aislinn Curry, production manager
David Bengali, video/projection design
Corina Chase, costume design
Abby Hoke-Brady, lighting design
Stephan Moravski, set designer
Carl Whipple, tech director/production manager
Diane Tran, is the high school aged daughter of Vietnamese immigrants brought to trial for truancy. She struggles with conflicting aspects of her life that bind the present to the past. Haunted by her mother’s memories of war, she navigates between forgetting and remembering, desire and duty.
The opera opens with Diane spending a sleepless night in jail. She questions how – as a good student, a dutiful daughter – she has come to this moment. She wants, most of all, to see her mother again. She tries to sleep and falls into a nightmare.
We see Diane at one of the jobs that she works to support herself and her siblings. Exhausted by school and assignments she struggles to keep up with the pace of work. She laments the “American Dream” when her boss, Stanley insists that she has to open the store the next day, forcing her to choose between missing another day of school and losing her income. She yearns for the care free life of her high school peers.
Diane’s mother, Khanh, appears. Diane hears Khanh’s past life stories as she struggles to explain why she abandoned the family. Khanh is haunted by ghost voices and blood memories of the war. The scene ends with Khanh begging her ancestors for forgiveness.
Diane stands before a judge in court because of all the days of school she has missed. She begs the judge for leniency and understanding of her difficult work and school situation. The judge must follow his vow to uphold the law and sentences Diane to jail. When Diane questions the judge’s lack of compassion he holds her in contempt and orders her to pay a fine in addition to going to jail.
The judge, Stanley and Khanh appear. They are each bound in their own way. Diane declares that ghost memories are shadows and realizes that to be “free” she must unshackle herself from her mother’s past.