I arrived early at the local library to attend a lecture called the Wit and Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, but first I stopped by the library’s used bookstore and found a three-dollar DVD of Hao Jiang Tian’s From Mao to the Met. My wife said she had been looking for that DVD, and she invited her sister and father to join us and watch it.
Funded by the Committee of 100, this one-man show features Metropolitan Opera basso Hao Jiang Tian weaving song and story into a compelling tale of growing up in China under Chairman Mao, based on his autobiography (with co-author Lois B. Morris) “Along the Roaring River: My Wild Ride from Mao to the Met“.
What I enjoyed most about the one-man show was that Tian never condemned Mao, the CCP or China for his bitter-sweet journey.
Instead, this fantastic opera singer says it was fate that led him from Mao to the Met. When you stop to think about it, fate is the river-of-life known later as history—the current that carries all of us through life often without much say in what is happening to us.
As a child, Tian hated his piano lessons. Then with the arrival of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Tian said, “So one happiest day came when I heard an announcement from the loudspeakers: My piano teacher was arrested as a counterrevolutionary. And then I was so happy. And so immediately I ran to the courtyard, screaming and jumping with joy.”
Thirty years later, Tian returned to Beijing and visited his piano teacher, who said, “Well, that was a crazy period, and it was so hard to figure out who was right and who was wrong.”
In his one man show, Tian performs songs of the Cultural Revolution, American standards such as “Some Enchanted Evening”, Irish song “Danny Boy” and operatic arias from his favorite roles; Tian tells the story of the music – and the woman – that changed his life.
NPR reports, “For more than 20 years, the basso voice of Hao Jiang Tian has filled major American opera houses. As one of the few Chinese stars in opera, his life story is as remarkable as his work. … Tian is one of the few opera singers to emerge from China.” – NPR.org
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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