The story of Pvt. Danny Chen, the Chinese American soldier who was found dead with a bullet to his head after enduring relentless hazing and racial harassment from his fellow soldiers, is set to become an opera from playwright David Henry Hwang: Victim of Military Hazing to Be Immortalized in Opera.
The Washington National Opera has commissioned a one-hour opera based on the life and death of Private Chen, entitled An American Soldier. Written by Hwang and composer Huang Ruo, the work is an attempt to fuse high culture with social awareness about the tragedy behind Danny Chen's death:
The Washington National Opera has commissioned a one-hour opera based on the life and death of Private Chen. Called "An American Soldier," the opera is being composed by Huang Ruo, a Chinese-born composer now living in New York. The libretto is being written by the Chinese-American playwright David Henry Hwang, author of the plays "M. Butterfly" and "Chinglish."The opera is scheduled to premiere at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC next June.
"I felt that this is a very good subject for us because, after all, opera is not just entertainment," Mr. Huang said in an interview on Thursday. "It’s a way to fulfill a social duty for society — in this case, to bring more awareness about what happened to Danny and somehow to help spread the word and also to really see what we can learn from this tragedy."
Last week, October 3, marked the two-year anniversary of Private Chen's death. OCA-NY held a candlelight vigil to commemorate his life and the legacy of his death. Meanwhile, the community awaits City Council approval on the co-naming of Elizabeth Street in Chinatown, where Danny grew up, as "Danny Chen Way."
In the end, all of this is work to ensure that another tragedy like this never happens again.