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Huang Ruo

Bound

an opera in one act

(2013)
Duration60'
CommissionCommissioned by Houston Grand Opera
PremiereFebruary 15 & 16, 2014; Moores Opera Center, University of Houston; Houston Grand Opera
SynopsisDiane Tran is an 11th grade honor student at Willis High School in Houston (TX), who was placed in jail after repeated truancy. She works a full-time job plus a part-time job while taking advancement and dual credit college level courses in high school. The Judge ordered the exhausted Ms. Tran to pay a $100 fine and spend a 24 hours in jail as a lesson. When interviewed by a local news station, Ms. Tran revealed that her parents were divorced and said, “I thought my family was happy.” This opera imagines a story based on that particular phrase.
RolesDiane; 17, Vietnamese American, high school student - lyric soprano
Judge Moriarty; 50s-60s, White, Houston judge - bass baritone
Khanh; 40s-50s, Vietnamese, Diane’s mother - mezzo-soprano
*Stanley; 50s-60s, White, owner of Dry Clean Max - bass baritone
*Can be the same singer as the judge
InstrumentationVersion One for 7 musicians:
Flute
Clarinet

Trombone

Piano

Violin
Cello

Dan Bau

Version Two for 14 musicians:
Flute
Oboe
Clarinet
Bassoon

Horn
Trumpet
Trombone

Percussion

Violin 1
Violin 2
Viola
Cello
Double-bass

Dan Bau
PublisherSchott Music

Media

Program Note

When I was approached by the Houston Grand Opera to create a new chamber opera on an Asian-American subject, I thought to myself that there must have been many writings in both music and literature about the FOB (Fresh Of Boat) first generation immigration stories, but wouldn’t it be crucial and timely to tell the story of the second generation of the immigrates, the young generation, born and raised in the US but not necessarily being treated and accepted as 100% American.  What difficulties are they facing, what’s their challenges?  Opera BOUND is inspired by the news story of high school student Diane Tran and her personal struggle to survive. 

BOUND is about duties bounded to people and the sincere decision one has to make and choose: to bound, or un-bound, to be trapped or be free?  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.

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.

I want to thank my librettist Bao-Long Chu, whose imaginary and poetic words that inspired my music so naturally.  Together, we present to you our chamber opera, BOUND  

– Huang Ruo

(With additional program notes by Jillian Flexner)

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