NEW YORK, May 4, 2008 - Speaking (and singing) to a sellout crowd, opera star Hao Jiang Tian reminisced about his tumultuous journey from the Cultural Revolution to the Metropolitan Opera. Tian is the first Chinese-born opera singer to achieve fame and a lasting success on world stages, but until recently he had seldom if ever spoken in public about his childhood in a revolutionary household and his struggles with authority.
In a program that launched Tian's just-published memoir Along the Roaring River: My Wild Ride from Mao to the Met, the star shared memories of growing up during the Cultural Revolution—the loving moment he shared with his father listening to the banned Beethoven Symphony No. 6, the "Pastoral," on a record player; his rebellious youth smoking, drinking, and picking fights; his hunger for Western classic novels stolen from closed libraries; his seven years of hard labor in a factory; his participation in the Mao Zedong propaganda ensemble; and a five-minute conversation with a stranger that turned him into a singer.
Additionally, Tian described his first experience at the Met, when he spent $8 out of $35 he had the day after he landed in America for a standing pass to watch Pavarotti in Verdi's Ernani. He also shared photographs and videos from both his life and stage career and performed songs (ranging from Hank Williams to traditional Chinese love ballads) that had held special meaning for him at different times in his life.
Along the Roaring River: My Wild Ride from Mao to the Met is available from Asia Society's AsiaStore.