Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

June 13-14: Washington National Opera Presents Huang Ruo & David Henry Hwang’s An American Soldier in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

David Henry Hwang. Photo by Lia Chang

David Henry Hwang. Photo by Lia Chang

Washington National Opera (WNO) presents the world premiere of An American Soldier, June 13-14, 2014 in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. An American Soldier features music by composer Huang Ruo and a libretto by David Henry Hwang. This new work, to be performed in English, is the second hourlong opera created under the auspices of the American Opera Initiative, WNO’s commissioning program for contemporary American opera. An American Soldier is directed by David Paul and a chamber orchestra is conducted by Steven Jarvi; both are alumni of WNO’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program.

On October 3, 2011, Chinese-American Army Pvt. Danny Chen was found dead in a guard tower at his base in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. The real circumstances behind his death, though, illustrate a darker undercurrent to life in the military. Based on a true story, and drawing from the ensuing courts-martial of Chen’s fellow soldiers, An American Soldier explores what happens when the very people who are supposed to protect you in a combat zone become your enemy.

The cast is led by tenor Andrew Stenson, a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, as Danny Chen. Mezzo-soprano Guang Yang, winner of the 1997 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, also stars as Mother Chen. Baritone Trevor Scheunemann, a former Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist and winner of WNO’s 2007 Artist of the Year Award, sings the role of Sgt. Aaron Marcum, and current Domingo- Cafritz Young Artist Soloman Howard sings the roles of the Judge Advocate and Pvt. Manny Timbers Merritt. The cast also includes baritone Andrew McLaughlin, bass Michael Ventura, and tenor Jonathan Blalock in multiple roles. An American Soldier features set design by Paul Taylor, costume design by Lynly A. Saunders, and lighting design by A.J. Guban.

Huang Ruo

Huang Ruo

Composer Huang Ruo is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Juilliard School. Following the world premiere of An American Soldier, the Santa Fe Opera will present the North American premiere of Ruo’s Chinese-language opera Dr. Sun Yat-sen, a collaboration with librettist Candace Mui-ngam Chong that had its world premiere in Hong Kong in 2011. Librettist David Henry Hwang is a Tony Award®-winning playwright (M. Butterfly, 1988) and has written opera librettos for works by Philip Glass, Bright Sheng, Osvaldo Golijov, Unsuk Chin, and Howard Shore.

WNO’s recently announced 2014-2015 season includes the company premiere of Daniel Catán’s Spanish-language Florencia in the Amazon, a brand-new production of Puccini’s classic La bohème, the company premiere of Rachel Portman’s family opera The Little Prince, an English-language production of Poulenc’s 20th-century drama Dialogues of the Carmelites, a revival of Wagner’s epic The Flying Dutchman, and an acclaimed new-to-Washington staging of Rossini’s Cinderella. A third season of the American Opera Initiative, including the world premiere of Penny by two alumni of the program, continues WNO’s efforts to commission new works and expand the American repertory. Highlights from the 2014-2015 season will be performed by the WNO Orchestra and special guests at a free preview concert on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 6 p.m. in the Kennedy Center Opera House.

An American Soldier will be performed in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater on Friday, June 13 at 7:30 p.m. and on Saturday, June 14 at 2 p.m. A Q&A with the cast and creative team follows each performance. Tickets are $30 and are available at the Kennedy Center Box Office, by calling (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324, or online at

The work of Huang Ruo (composer) draws equal inspiration from Chinese folk, Western avant- garde, rock, and jazz to create a seamless, organic integration using a compositional technique he calls “dimensionalism.” His writing spans from orchestra, chamber music, opera, theater, and modern dance, to sound installation, multi-media, experimental improvisation, folk rock, and film. The Santa Fe Opera will present the North American premiere of his Chinese-language opera Dr. Sun Yat-sen in 2014. His upcoming commissions include a chamber opera for the Houston Grand Opera, an installation opera for Spoleto Festival USA, a vocal drama for the Ars Nova Copenhagen and Danish Dance Theatre, an orchestra work for the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra which will be premiered at the Concertgebouw, and a new symphony for the National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan. Ensembles who have premiered and performed his music include the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Asko Ensemble, Nieuw Ensemble, Quatuor Diotima, and Dutch Vocal Laboratory, and under conductors such as Wolfgang Sawallisch, James Conlon, Dennis Russell Davies, Ed Spanjaard, Xian Zhang, and Ilan Volkov. He has collaborated with New York City Ballet’s principal dancer Damian Woetzel and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, as well as kinetic painter Norman Perryman. He was awarded First Prize by the prestigious Luxembourg International Composition Prize. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in composition from the Juilliard School. His composition teachers have included Randolph Coleman and Samuel Adler. He is currently a member of the composition faculty at SUNY Purchase. He is the artistic director and conductor of Future In REverse (FIRE) and was selected as a Young Leader Fellow by the National Committee on United States–China Relations

The work of David Henry Hwang (librettist) includes the plays M. Butterfly, Chinglish, Yellow Face, Golden Child, The Dance and the Railroad, and FOB, as well as the Broadway musicals Aida (co-author), Flower Drum Song (2002 revival), and Tarzan. As America’s most-produced living opera librettist, he has written four pieces with composer Philip Glass, including The Voyage (Metropolitan Opera, 1992), as well as Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar (two 2007 Grammy Awards), Bright Sheng’s The Silver River (1997), Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland (2007 “World Premiere of the Year” by Opernwelt magazine), and Howard Shore’s The Fly (2008). Hwang is a Tony Award® winner and three-time nominee, a three-time Obie Award winner, and a two-time Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He received the 2011 PEN/Laura Pels Award, the 2012 William Inge Award, the 2012 Steinberg “Mimi” Award, and the 2014 Doris Duke Artist Award, and recently completed his the Residency One Playwright term at NYC’s Signature Theatre, which produced a season of his plays, including the world premiere of his newest work Kung Fu in February 2014. He serves as President of Young Playwrights Inc, and sits on the boards of the Lark Play Development Center, The American Theatre Wing, and The Actors Fund. He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife, actress Kathryn Layng, and their two children.

The Kennedy Center is located on the bank of the Potomac River at 2700 F St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20566, at the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue, NW, and Rock Creek Parkway. It is accessible by Metro (via the subway and bus lines), by taxi, and by car. If you are driving, refer to the directions below to find the most efficient route for getting to and exiting the Center. And, always remember to allow extra time when driving as Washington traffic can be unpredictable. The Kennedy Center offers many pre-performance activities to help you make the most of your visit. You can find information on garage hours, fees, and accessibility here under: Parking at the Kennedy Center.

Washington National Opera (WNO) is one of the leading opera companies in the United States. Founded in 1956 and now an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the company boasts numerous artistic highlights, including world premieres, commissioning of new works and new productions, international tours, and performances by some of opera’s most admired artists. WNO productions have been heard around the world, through radio and television broadcasts on WETA-FM, NPR, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and PBS, as well as through audio and video recordings.

In 2012, WNO launched the American Opera Initiative, a comprehensive commissioning program that brings contemporary American stories to the stage while fostering and developing the talents of new American composers and librettists. WNO contributes to the future of opera through two other signature artist-development programs: the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program is a leading resident-training program for artists on the verge of international careers, and the WNO Opera Institute nurtures the ambitions of high-school-age singers and pianists from across the nation during an intensive three-week summer program.

WNO’s education and access initiatives include year-round programs in public schools throughout the region; Generation O, a popular discount-ticket initiative for young people; and a variety of lectures and discussions for every production on the season calendar. Among the most popular of WNO’s community programs is M&M’S® Opera in the Outfield, which brings free, live simulcasts of opera to Nationals Park for thousands of opera fans as well as new audiences.

Other articles by Lia Chang:
Bryan Cranston, Audra McDonald, Neil Patrick Harris, Jessie Mueller, Lena Hall, Sophie Okonedo, Kenny Leon, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, All The Way, A Raisin in the Sun, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and More Take Home 2014 Tony Awards
Signature Theatre to Be Honored with the 2014 Regional Theatre Tony Award
Second Stage Uptown: 2g Presents Readings of Anna Moench’s Three Kingdoms on 6/9 and Sung Rno and Aaron Jones’ Galois on 6/16
Wesley Taylor and Mitchell Jarvis’ ‘it could be worse’ Series Featuring Adam Chanler-Berat, Alison Fraser, Gideon Glick and More Airs on Pivot TV in June; and on Hulu in July
Remembering Civil Rights Activist Yuri Kochiyama, 1921-2014
Francis Jue, Bryan Cranston, Olympia Dukakis, Paul Daigneault, All The Way, The Jungle Book, The Flick, Tribes, Hairspray Among 32nd Annual Elliot Norton Award Winners
Branden Jacob-Jenkins’ Appropriate, Lisa Kron’s Fun Home, Sonya Tayeh, Emmanuel Brown, Mia Katigbak, K. Todd Freeman, John Earl Jelks Among 2014 OBIE Award Winners
Jun. 4-29: Tony Award–winner BD Wong, Sab Shimono, Julyana Soelistyo, Stan Egi, Orville Mendoza, Paolo Montalban and More Set for A.C.T.’s U.S. Premiere of Orphan of Zhao, a co-production with La Jolla Playhouse 
June 22 – July 27: Blair Underwood, Richard Thomas and Kristen Connolly Lead the Cast of The Old Globe’s Othello, helmed by Barry Edelstein 
June 4: Garth Kravits, Lena Hall, Lesli Margherita, Wesley Taylor and More Strip Down with The Skivvies at 54 Below 
May 31 – June 22: Annette O’Toole Leads Cast of Wendy Wasserstein’s “Third” Helmed by Michael Cumpsty at Two River Theater Company 
June 5-7: National Asian Artists Project To Present All-Asian Production of OLIVER! Featuring Raul Aranas, Anthea Neri, Bonale Zohn Fambrini, Mel Sagrado Maghuyop, Cindy Cheung, Scott Watanabe, Virginia Wing, David Shih and More 
May 28 – June 29: Lisa Joyce, Henry Kelemen and CJ Wilson Join Mary McCann in Atlantic Theater Company’s OUR NEW GIRL
Jun. 23: The Black Stars of The Great White Way Broadway Reunion: Live The Dream at Carnegie Hall Features Chapman Roberts, Norm Lewis, André De Shields, Chuck Cooper, Brandon Victor Dixon and More
Lucille Lortel Awards for Here Lies Love, Fun Home, The Open House, Good Person of Szechwan 
Photos: Bryan Cranston, Peter Jay Fernandez, Roslyn Ruff, Tamara Tunie, Leslie Uggams, Ruben Santiago-Hudson Celebrate All The Way Opening Night
Photos: Harriet Harris, John Tartaglia, Christine Toy Johnson, Alan Muraoka, James Saito and More celebrate Ann Harada’s Debut at Lincoln Center in the American Songbook Series 
Q & A with Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play’s Garth Kravits
Photos: André De Shields, Michael Shannon, Rajiv Joseph, Christine Sherrill, Doug Peck, Alexis J. Rogers, Karen Ziemba and More Celebrate 2013 Jeff Equity Awards
Photos: Backstage with Michi Barall and the cast of Regina Taylor’s stop.reset. at Signature Theatre Review: Power Play Powerful & Suspenseful 
Photos: The 58th Annual Drama Desk Awards and After Party 
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

David Henry Hwang Articles:
Tony Award Winning Playwright David Henry Hwang Receives $275,000 Doris Duke Artist Award
Signature’s Production of David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu, starring Cole Horibe, Phoebe Strole and Francis Jue, extends through April 6, 2014 
Photos: Backstage and Opening Night of Signature’s World Premiere of David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu 
Signature’s Production Photos of David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu, Opens February 24, 2014
Celebrating the Year of the Horse with David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu at Signature Theatre; Previews begin February 4, 2014 
Feb. 4 – Mar. 16: Phoebe Strole, Jon Rua, Join Cole Horibe and More for Signature’s World Premiere of David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu 
Feb. 4 – Mar. 16: Cole Horibe, Francis Jue, Peter Kim and More Set for Signature’s
World Premiere of David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu

Photos: David Henry Hwang, Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph honored at Sixth Annual Steinberg Playwright “Mimi” Awards 
Signature Theatre’s World Premiere of David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu Stars SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE’s Cole Horibe as Bruce Lee 
Ryun Yu, Christopher Gorham, Linda Park, Sab Shimono, Emily Kuroda, Ki Hong Lee, Justin James Hughes star in David Henry Hwang’s Yellow Face Premiering on YOMYOMF Network on 6/8 & 6/9 
David Henry Hwang to Receive the 2012 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award at the 5th Annual Steinberg Playwright “Mimi” Awards on October 29, 2012 
Signature Theatre’s Revival of David Henry Hwang’s The Dance and The Railroad Set for Wuzhen Theatre Festival in Wuzhen, China, May 9-12, 2013 
Photos: David Henry Hwang’s The Dance and The Railroad Opening Night at Signature Theatre 
Photos: Partying with the Cast of David Henry Hwang’s Golden Child; Extended Run Ends December 16, 2012 
Photos: David Henry Hwang, Oskar Eustis, BD Wong, Brian d’Arcy James, Francis Jue, Jennifer Lim and Leigh Silverman at WNYC’s The Greene Space 
Filmmaker Justin Lin Acquires Film Rights to David Henry Hwang’s Critically Acclaimed Broadway Comedy Chinglish
David Henry Hwang Set as Signature Theatre’s Residency One Playwright for the 2012-2013 Season
David Henry Hwang to Receive 2012 William Inge Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre Award Photo Flash: Library of Congress’ IN REHEARSAL Exhibit
Nothing is Sacred in David Henry Hwang’s Comedy of Mistaken Racial Identity
Francis Jue, At Home on the Stage
The Making of the Flower Drum Song Cast Album
Flower Drum Song, An American Story The Literary Legacy of C.Y. Lee
Click here for more articles on David Henry Hwang.

Lia Chang

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia made her jazz vocalist debut in Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz “LADY” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York. All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2014 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at

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