American Soldier Comes to PAC in New York

Huang Ruo and David Henry Hwang Unite in Splendid Opera

By: - May 09, 2024

Huang Ruo’s opera, An American Soldier, opens May 12 at the new Perelman Performing Arts Center in lower Manhattan. This flexible theater is built for chamber opera, often the form new operas take.  

We saw the world premiere at Opera Theatre of St. Louis and marveled at the music and the storytelling  libretto by Tony- and Emmy-winning playwright David Henry Hwang.  This version was commissioned by PAC and the Boston Lyric Opera.  Carolyn Kuan conducts. (Her conducting of the world premiere of Stewart Wallace and MichaelKorie’s Harvey Milk opera was superb.).  Chay Yew, prize-winning playwright and director, directs.  

The composer intertwines music of the east and west.  It is not blended.  He takes pride in his openness to novel forms as he composes.  Americans transplanted from China have made outsized contributions to our culture. An American Soldier shows how.

You’ll find stunning textural variety on stage at PAC.  There’s a rigorous and tense court martial, the budding love of a Chinese American girl for her neighbor in Chinatown, New York. His mother sings a lullaby to Ah Fhat, (now Danny Chan)  at the start of the show.  It turns into an anguished lullaby for her son toward the end.

The selection of this true story seems prescient in today’s world.  Chen considered himself an American.  Against his parents’ wishes, he enlists in the Army, all the better to prove his deep feelings for his country.  His Asian appearance, along with threats to others of color, makes him a target for abusive racism in the military and elsewhere.  

Huang Ruo makes choices that drive the opera ever forward. Yet we are allowed to savor moments, notes and words that enhance our experience.  

May 12-18. Tickets are available here.