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Critical Acclaim for the New York Premiere of Huang Ruo and David Henry Hwang's An American Soldier, led by Carolyn Kuan and Chay Yew

May. 31, 2024

Led by Carolyn Kuan and Chay Yew, The American Composers Orchestra gave the New York premiere performances of Huang Ruo and David Henry Hwang's riveting opera, An American Soldier on May 12-19 at the Perelman Performing Arts Center in New York City.

On October 3, 2011, Chinese-American Army Pvt. Danny Chen was found dead in a guard tower at his base in Afghanistan. Based on his story and the ensuing courts-martial of Chen’s fellow soldiers, this opera tells the powerful true story of a young soldier from Manhattan’s Chinatown who sought to serve his country, only to find his biggest threat was the very people who swore to protect him.

Told through the multidimensional music of Huang Ruo (M. ButterflyBook of Mountains and Seas) with libretto by Tony and Grammy winner David Henry Hwang (M. ButterflySoft Power), and directed by Obie Award winner Chay Yew (Cambodian Rock BandSweatshop Overlord), An American Soldier is a powerful and unforgettable experience.


Trailer: An American Soldier at PAC NYC

A 60-minute version of the opera was commissioned by Washington National Opera and premiered there in 2014 as part of WNO’s American Opera Initiative. The full-length version of An American Soldier was originally commissioned by the Opera Theatre of St. Louis for its New Works, Bold Voices, and premiered in 2018. The 2024 version was co-commissioned by PAC NYC and Boston Lyric Opera.

Of the New York premiere performances, Heidi Waleson (Wall Street Journal) noted:

"Rich orchestral palette and explosive vocal writing... Conductor Carolyn Kuan skillfully paced the American Composers Orchestra, winding up the opera's tension and managing its brief intervals of release.... we heard—and felt—the military fanfares and ostinatos that limn the anxious progress of Danny's story and the haunting didgeridoo that accompanies his restless ghost.” (Full review here).

Anne E. Johnson (Classical Voice North America) concurred:

"In the pit was the American Composers Orchestra (ACO), exactly the band you want for complex new orchestral music, in this instance under the masterful baton of Carolyn Kuan. The orchestra, which was listed as co-producer along with Boston Lyric Opera, never seemed daunted by the score's endless motion and intricate rhythms, and never flagged in energy or focus. In those few blessed moments of quietude, their sound changed to an ethereal aching or a naïve sweetness. After the first performance, the entire orchestra (more than 30 members) came onstage to take a bow. Fair enough: Every one of them had earned it." (Full review here).

Additionally, from June 6-8, the BBC Philharmonic, under the baton of Gemma New, premiere Huang Ruo's cutting-edge work, City of Floating Sounds in Manchester. Guided by a bespoke mobile app, audiences make their way through the streets of Manchester to Aviva Studios where the full score comes to life in an immersive performance.

To learn more about Huang Ruo, visit schott-music.com.

Huang Ruo
An American Soldier (2024)
an opera in 2 acts
libretto (Eng) by David Henry Hwang
2.2.2.2-2.2.2.1-2perc-str

New version 2024 is co-commissioned by the Boston Lyric Opera and Perelman Performing Arts Center (PAC NYC), to be premiered at PAC NYC in May 12-19, 2024. * Full-length version commissioned by the Opera Theatre of St. Louis for its New Works, Bold Voices, premiered in 2018. *A 60-minute version of the opera was commissioned by Washington National Opera and premiered there in 2014 as part of WNO’s American Opera Initiative.

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