Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Seattle Bound Presents BOUND, Based On A True Story, Explores The Contradictions Of The Immigrant Experience

Composer Huang Ruo makes his Seattle Opera debut as both composer and conductor.

Seattle Bound Presents BOUND, Based On A True Story, Explores The Contradictions Of The Immigrant Experience

Continuing its commitment to new works and today's stories, Seattle Opera presents Bound, a chamber opera by composer Huang Ruo and librettist Bao-Long Chu. Based on true events, Bound tells the story of Diane Tran, a 17-year-old honor student who spent a night in jail in 2012 for truancy when she missed too many school days working two jobs to support her family.

The child of Vietnamese immigrants, Tran found herself caught between competing obligations to her family, her schooling, and herself. Over the course of Tran's sleepless night in prison, Bound explores the struggles common among many first- and second-generation immigrants trying to make lives for themselves in the United States.

The opera's composer, Huang Ruo, was drawn to this story for the way it exposed the ambivalence that can result from intersectional identities. "Many second-generation Asian Americans, who were born and raised in America, feel an uncomfortable relationship with their cultural heritage," said Huang, who was born in Hainan Island, China, and came to the United States to study composition. His opera M. Butterfly premiered to great acclaim at Santa Fe Opera last summer. "They were born and raised in America, English is their first language, American culture is their culture-and yet, do they feel like they belong completely? I wanted to use this opera to explore such questions."

"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," said librettist Bao-Long Chu. "So when I heard Diane's story, I recognized many aspects of my own family's journey. I wrote this opera in a way that not only reflects a particular Vietnamese American experience, but also resonates with all of us as human beings."

Bound will be presented in a new chamber orchestration in Tagney Jones Hall, Seattle Opera's 200-seat theater. Composer Huang Ruo will conduct his own work, leading an instrumental ensemble that includes two Vietnamese instruments: the đàn bầu, a single-stringed box zither, and the đàn tranh, a 16-stringed board zither.

Directing the production is Seattle theater stalwart Desdemona Chiang, making her Seattle Opera debut. Joining Chiang on the creative team are scenic designer Carey Wong (Orpheus and Eurydice, '22), costume designer Deborah Trout (Beatrice and Benedict, '18), and lighting designer Geoff Korf in his Seattle Opera debut. The cast features two returning singers, soprano Karen Vuong (La bohème, '21) as Diane Tran and mezzo-soprano Nina Yoshida Nelsen (An American Dream, '17) as Khanh, as well as bass-baritone Daniel Klein in his Seattle Opera debut as Stanley/Judge Moriarty.

For General Director Christina Scheppelmann, Bound demonstrates the importance of telling vital, relevant stories. "Bound is an excellent piece that, unfortunately, reveals the injustices that immigrants throughout the United States face every day," said Scheppelmann. "Although this story is specific to one person and her family, I think it provides an important window onto the ways our society must work to become a more welcoming, inclusive, and compassionate place."

Huang Ruo has been lauded by The New Yorker as "one of the world's leading young composers" and by The New York Times for having "a distinctive style." His vibrant and inventive musical voice draws equal inspiration from Chinese ancient and folk music, Western avant-garde, experimental, noise, natural and processed sound, rock, and jazz. As a member of the new generation of Chinese composers, his goal is not just to mix both Western and Eastern elements, but also to create a seamless, organic integration. Huang Ruo's diverse compositional works span from orchestra, chamber music, opera, theater, and dance, to cross-genre, sound installation, multi-media, experimental improvisation, folk rock, and film.

Chu is a storyteller. Originally from Vietnam, his passion for writing led him to the MFA creative writing program at University of Houston. He has written and presented extensively on writing pedagogy, the connection between art and the refugee experience, and nonprofit programming. Currently, Chu is the Program Director of Arts and Parks at Houston Endowment where he oversees the grants strategy to support and grow Houston's arts, culture, and parks ecosystem. He collaborates with artists and community leaders toward a shared vision of a vibrant city with abundant opportunities to create and connect. The power of art to share and connect human stories inspires his work. Chu's poems and essays have been published in several anthologies, including The New Anthology of American Poetry: Postmodernisms 1950-Present and From Both Sides Now: The Poetry of the Vietnam War and Its Aftermath. His libretto for the opera Bound, composed by Huang Ruo, premiered in Houston in 2014 and in New York in 2019.

Established in 1963, Seattle Opera is committed to serving the people of the Pacific Northwest through music, storytelling, and programs for people of all ages. Each year, more than 80,000 people attend the company's performances, and more than 100,000 people are served through school performances, radio broadcasts, and more. The organization brings opera to life in a number of different ways, offering artistic excellence through national and international collaborations. Seattle Opera strives to create an environment where artists, staff, behind-the-scenes workers, and members of the community feel a strong connection to the company, and to the art of opera. Follow Seattle Opera on Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, and on Classical KING FM 98.1.

Tickets and information at seattleopera.org/bound.



Review: HISTORY OF THEATRE: ABOUT, BY, FOR, AND NEAR at ACT Theatre Photo
A new work by ACT Theatre and the Hansberry Project, HISTORY OF THEATRE: ABOUT, BY, FOR, and NEAR will take you on a journey through time and space to meet the people who forged the foundations for Blacks in theater. The show dispels myths about minstrelsy, delves into the hows and whys of black face, and covers key players of early theater in America. Unheard voices are released, forgotten stars are remembered, and a rich legacy is revealed.

Acclaimed Filmmaker Roya Sadat Directs World Premiere of A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS at Seatt Photo
When acclaimed Afghan filmmaker Roya Sadat agreed to direct the operatic premiere of A Thousand Splendid Suns, the challenges encountered by the story's Mariam and Laila, two women brought together under brutal Taliban rule, were a reminder of a traumatic period in Afghanistan's history.

Review: METAMORPHOSES at Seattle Repertory Theatre Photo
Compelling storytelling is the focus of METAMORPHOSES at Seattle Rep. Every choice is made with intention, and every facet of the show is a work of collaboration. The gods, the humans, and the demigods are all shown to have strengths and weaknesses. With stories that reach back into the eons of the past, METAMORPHOSES leads you to laugh, to hurt, and to reflect on what it means to be human.

Village Theatre Presents MISS STEP This Month Photo
Village Theatre today announced its latest Village Originals Beta Production MISS STEP, a fun new musical comedy by Kit Yan and Melissa Li, the creative minds behind the musical Interstate. Set in the rollicking 80s, this heartfelt story follows Pam Carter, an unremarkable trans woman working as a toll collector on the New Jersey turnpike.


More Hot Stories For You


Acclaimed Filmmaker Roya Sadat Directs World Premiere of A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS at Seattle OperaAcclaimed Filmmaker Roya Sadat Directs World Premiere of A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS at Seattle Opera
February 3, 2023

When acclaimed Afghan filmmaker Roya Sadat agreed to direct the operatic premiere of A Thousand Splendid Suns, the challenges encountered by the story's Mariam and Laila, two women brought together under brutal Taliban rule, were a reminder of a traumatic period in Afghanistan's history.

Village Theatre Presents MISS STEP This MonthVillage Theatre Presents MISS STEP This Month
February 2, 2023

Village Theatre today announced its latest Village Originals Beta Production MISS STEP, a fun new musical comedy by Kit Yan and Melissa Li, the creative minds behind the musical Interstate. Set in the rollicking 80s, this heartfelt story follows Pam Carter, an unremarkable trans woman working as a toll collector on the New Jersey turnpike.

Ian Gardner is STG's New Technical Director Of The Historic Paramount TheatreIan Gardner is STG's New Technical Director Of The Historic Paramount Theatre
February 2, 2023

Seattle Theatre Group has announced that Ian Gardner, a leader in the Pacific Northwest's stagehand community, is the new Technical Director of the historic Paramount Theatre.

West Coast Premiere Of MEET ME AT DAWN Comes to the Radial Theater Project Next MonthWest Coast Premiere Of MEET ME AT DAWN Comes to the Radial Theater Project Next Month
February 2, 2023

Radial Theater Project has announced that tickets are now on sale for the twice-postponed West Coast Premiere of Meet Me at Dawn by Zinnie Harris, running March 24 - April 8, 2023 at 18th & Union in Seattle's Central District.

Seattle Theatre Group Presents Kidd Pivot's REVISORSeattle Theatre Group Presents Kidd Pivot's REVISOR
February 1, 2023

Seattle Theatre Group (STG) will present the Seattle premiere of Kidd Pivot's riveting and inventive performance work “Revisor” for one night only at the Paramount Theatre on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, at 7:30 PM.