When a new opera has a promising but not entirely successful first performance, its length is often the main problem. Too long, I mean.
Huang Ruo’s “An American Soldier” was the rare exception: a premiere that felt too short. It was introduced as an hourlong chamber work in 2014, but the creators were urged to flesh it out. An expanded, two-hour, fully orchestrated version had a triumphant premiere last summer.
Mr. Huang might consider similarly expanding his 45-minute chamber opera “Bound,” being presented through Thursday at the Baruch Performing Arts Center by the center and Fresh Squeezed Opera. As it is, too much remains unclear about important relationships in the piece, and too many motivations unexplored.
Like “An American Soldier,” this work, from 2014, is based on a true story: Diane Tran, a 17-year-old honor student in Houston, was jailed overnight in 2012 for truancy; balancing her heavy school workload and the two jobs she took to help her family, she had missed some classes. During a post-performance talk on Monday, Mr. Huang explained that he was drawn to Ms. Tran’s story for what it revealed about the often-overlooked struggles of second-generation immigrants, trying to meet their parents’ expectations while trying to become fully Americanized.
With a libretto by the poet Bao-Long Chu, “Bound” opens with the humiliated Diane (the intensely expressive soprano Fang-Tao Jiang) enduring her sleepless night in jail. She plaintively calls to her absent mother, trying to understand how a good student