by Alice Ping Yee Ho, Madeleine Thien, and Paul Yee
Alice Ping Yee Ho, City Opera Vancouver, and Leaf Music are proud to present Chinatown, a sweeping opera that tells the collective story of thousands of Chinese immigrants who left their homeland between the mid-nineteenth and twentieth centuries in search of a better life for them and their families. The first opera in Hoisanese and English and the first to fuse authentic Chinese folk dialects and cultures into the world of English opera, Ho’s Chinatown is a tribute to the legacy of the people who toiled under the promise of prosperity, and instead received abuse and hardship.
Chinatown revolves around the intertwining lives of Saihin and Xon Pon, two young men from Hoisan county in South China who have come to Canada in search of prosperity. We follow their story as they meet, work together, endure hardships and have families of their own. A collaboration between composer Alice Ping Yee Ho, librettist Madeleine Thien, and Hoisanese translator Paul Yee, Chinatown brings together decades of lived experience from thousands of Chinese immigrants in an intimate and emotionally arresting musical and dramatic soundscape.
Ho says the opera is intended to be an artistic depiction of the realities facing early 20th century Chinese immigrants. “This album represents an important work that tells the stories and experiences of early Chinese immigrants. It’s clear by the standing ovations and positive reviews that the opera Chinatown is a beautiful and moving story of racism, resilience, and family. I hope this album will inspire the audience the same way as it was imagined in the theatre – the experience of an epic journey of music and drama, both heart-wrenching and heart-warming.”
Founding artistic director, Dr. Charles Barber says, “We conceived the idea for CHINATOWN in mid-2017. It was approved and budgeted by the Board, and so began its development. We spent a year searching for the storyteller. Having chosen Madeleine Thien, we commissioned a scenario and thereafter a draft libretto. The Vancouver Foundation made a stupendous lead grant in support of this project, and this process. One year later, we began taking Maddie’s draft to multiple private and public workshops, with professional actors road-testing its language and structures. Translator Paul Yee joined to lead us in the incorporation of Hoisanese in the opera.”
“Alice Ping Yee Ho was commissioned in 2020, and thereafter we held public music workshops — again in Chinatown venues, and with professional singers. Delayed by COVID, from concept to curtain took five years. CHINATOWN exists because of the inspired collaboration of Alice, Maddie, and Paul, and the many friends and artists who joined in generous support. We thank them all. »
“For five nights in September 2022, at the Vancouver Playhouse, our audiences heard the results: a story of strength and resilience in the face of great adversity and loss. We believe this piece is a fitting tribute to those who lived and worked in Chinatown, for which they left everything. In this recording, we hope you will be as moved as were they—and we thank you for listening.”
It is a timely, significant and often beautiful work that proves well worth the wait. The overwhelming strengths of the show are the singers, the orchestral ensemble, and Alice Ping Yee Ho’s enchanting score
- The Vancouver Sun