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From the Publisher* In this remarkable memoir, operatic bass Tian relates the dramatic story of his childhood in Communist China, his coming of age during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s-1980s, and his success on the international opera circuit and as a "house basso" at the Metropolitan Opera. As the first native Chinese opera singer to achieve renown outside of his country, Tian brings a unique perspective to the cultural divide between China and the West. His journey from teenage factory worker to choral member of Beijing's Central Philharmonic Society to graduate student in Denver to sought-after opera star is so riveting and filled with fascinating detail that it reads like a page-turning novel. Indeed, Tian's outsize personality resembles that of many of the characters he portrays on stage. The writing throughout is without pretense and almost artless in its directness, yet it resonates with humanity, candor, and passion. All opera fans as well as readers interested in the social and political history of China will be captivated by this inspirational book. Highly recommended.
—Larry Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, PA (Jibrary Journal, May 1, 2008)
Together with Morris, a New York Times music writer, celebrated operatic bass Hao Jiang Tian tells the colorful story of how he became the first world-class Western opera singer from China. In Beijing, separated from his parents (both military officer/musicians whose Communist loyalties were under suspicion), Tian chafed against the artistic restrictions of China’s Cultural Revolution. "Everything natural became unnatural," he writes. Tian is 20 before he discovers his singing voice, and he is 30—having played accordion, studied Verdi and attended an American college on scholarship—by the time he sings at the Metropolitan Opera in 1991. Tian’s adventures are driven by pluck, yuan (fate) and romance, and spun with a raconteur’s skill, the narrative’s chronological rush spiked with apt foreshadowing, flashbacks and endearing humor. His insider’s take on the rigors of operatic training and backstage blowups, along with his career details (roles from Mephistopheles to poet Li Bai) and name-dropping (Pavarotti, Domingo), are a fan’s delight. Most remarkable, however, is the way that Tian’s concern for family and country, along with the details of his life in music, create a metaphor for an emerging self-awareness. (May) (Publishers Weekly, March 31, 2008)