Discussion: ‘Turandot’ and AAPI representation in contemporary opera



Wednesday, April 6, 2022
7 p.m. Program

Considered Giacomo Puccini’s finest musical masterpiece, Turandot transports the audience to an imaginary land based on a Western conception of China. What does it mean to produce an opera like Turandot today?

Join Houston Grand Opera and the Asia Society Texas for an artist-led panel around AAPI’s representation, inclusivity and equity in the opera industry. This discussion will create an open space for AAPI voices in the Houston community to talk about the challenges of opera while envisioning a broader conversation about the future of the art form, how characters and Asian and Asian American communities are represented, and opportunities to further empower diverse artists.

This program will be featured in HGO’s upcoming production of Turandot.

About the panelists

A graduate of the Houston Grand Opera Studio and student of Dr. Stephen King, Peixin Chen is renowned for his majestically resonant bass voice and for the keen dramatic instincts he brings to a wide range of roles on the international opera scene. His repertoire ranges from the comic parts of Donizetti, Mozart and Rossini to the strong and serious roles of Puccini, Verdi and Wagner. Peixin Chen regularly works with an illustrious array of conductors and directors, including Harry Bicket, Sebastian Lang-Lessing, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Giancarlo del Monaco, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, David Paul, Michel Plasson, David Pountney, James Robinson, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Patrick Summers, Krzysztof Urbański and Francesca Zambello.

Immigrated to the United States in her early 20s, Taiwanese-American composer Shih Hui Chen is fascinated by stories at the intersection of identity, culture and tradition. In her works, she seeks to cross the boundaries between music and society, between the music of distinct cultures and between music and other art forms. Chen is the founder/director of 21C: Classical, Contemporary, and Cross-Cultural Asian Music, a performing arts festival that promotes international exchange between Asia and the United States through an annual series of lectures and performance. Shih-Hui Chen has worked with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, Utah Symphony Orchestra, and National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra. Recognition for his work has come from institutions such as the American Academy in Rome, the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Fulbright Scholar Program and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is currently on the faculty of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University.

Japanese-American conductor Eiki Isomura is in his fourth season as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Opera in the Heights (OH), where he has conducted over one hundred performances of over twenty-five operas, garnering consistent praise for raising the company’s level of performance. “The orchestra has never seemed so focused,” wrote the Houston Press, “Ultimately, this is fine-caliber ensemble playing…The OH chorus is also ultra-fine, smooth and brilliant…Maestro Isomura deserves our thanks.” In recent years, he has served on the musical staff of Opera in the Ozarks as conductor and pianist, as well as HGOco, preparing the world premieres of numerous chamber operas for the Houston Grand Opera. A passionate advocate for new music, Eiki launched Opera in the Heights’ first-ever festival of new works, with three world premieres in two weeks, produced in collaboration with MUSIQA and the American Center for New Works Development at Seagle Music Colony. . Prior to his appointment as Artistic Director at OH, Eiki served as Director of Orchestral Activities at Lone Star College-Montgomery in Conroe, TX. He currently holds a residency as Guest Music Director of Opera at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Claire Liu is the chairman-elect of the Houston Grand Opera Board of Trustees. She served as Assistant Treasurer, Corporate Finance at LyondellBasell before retiring in 2015. She has extensive experience in corporate transactions and previously served as a corporate banker at Bank of America. Claire currently serves on the Houston Zoo Board of Trustees and is a member of its Finance Committee and serves on the SEARCH Community Advisory Board and is a member of its Finance Committee. She is also involved in several Centraide committees. She joined the Houston Grand Opera Board of Directors in December 2015 and is currently Chair of the Finance Committee and a member of the Executive Committee and Management Development Sub-Committee. Claire previously served as co-chair of the CEO Transition Committee and a member of the COVID task force, both of which have since disbanded.

Chinese-American mezzo-soprano Sun-Ly Pierce quickly distinguished herself as an exciting communicator and performer in the world of opera. During the 2021-22 season, she will debut four new roles at Houston Grand Opera: Stéphano (Romeo and Juliet) directed by Tomer Zvulun; cover Blanche de la Force and sing Sister Mathilde (Dialogues of the Carmelites) directed by Francesca Zambello and conducted by musical director Patrick Summers; Second Lady (Die Zauberflote) in the production of Barrie Kosky and Suzanne Andrade under the direction of Jane Glover; and Mercedes (Carmen) led by Lidiya Yankovskaya. She will also make her Des Moines Metro Opera debut as Second Lady in their production of Die Zauberflote directed by Christopher Allen. During the 2020-21 season at Houston Grand Opera, she sang the title role in a digital presentation of Hansel and Gretel from director Lileana Blain-Cruz with original animated backgrounds from award-winning visual artist Hannah Wasileski. Ms. Pierce also appeared as Liesl in the company’s live singing event, My Favorite Things: Songs from The Sound of Music, which took place at the University of Houston’s TDECU Stadium. Planned appearances included Kätchen (Wether) as well as cover Angelina and sing Tisbe (The Cenerentola) before being canceled due to the pandemic. Recent stage productions with the Houston Grand Opera Studio include excerpts from Ravel spanish timeby Monteverdi L’incoronazione di Poppeaand Bizet Carmen.

About the moderator

Khori Dastor is General Manager and CEO of the Houston Grand Opera and holder of the Margaret Alkek Williams Professorship. Khori is an entrepreneurial and data-driven leader with a proven track record in organizational transformation and a clear vision for the future of opera. She joins the HGO team at Opera San José (OSJ), where she held the position of General Manager. Through its strategic vision, OSJ achieved record budget surpluses, experienced dramatic growth in cash holdings and investments, launched the country’s first COVID relief fund for artists and musicians, created a new media studio dedicated solely to opera production, has distributed content to more than 30 enterprise partners nationwide, and grown the company’s customer base to include a global audience for the first time in 37 years of company history. She serves on the board of directors of Opera America where she is co-chair of the Learning and Leadership Council and a founding member and mentor of the Mentorship Program for Opera Leaders of Color. She also serves on the Music Festival and School of Aspen Alumni Committee, is a graduate of the American Express Women in Music Leadership Academy, and previously served as the San Francisco District Director of Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. . Previously, Khori served as Associate Director of the Packard Humanities Institute, a private family foundation dedicated to the preservation and advancement of art, music and archaeology.

Asia Society Texas’ performing arts and culture programs are presented by Syamal and Susmita Poddar. Major support comes from Nancy C. Allen, Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Houston Endowment and The Brown Foundation Inc. Generous funding also provided by AARP, The Anchorage Foundation of Texas , The Clayton Fund, and the Miller Theater Advisory Board. Additional support provided by the Wortham Foundation, Texas Commission on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, United Airlines, and through contributions from the Friends of Asia Society, a dedicated group of individuals and organizations committed to providing programming and exceptional exhibitions at Asia Society Center texan.

Performing Arts and Culture Presenting Sponsors

Syamal and Susmita Poddar

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Performing Arts and Culture Program Sponsors

Presenting Partner

About Asia Society Texas

Asia Society Texas believes in the strength and beauty of diversity of perspectives and people. As an educational institution, we advance cultural exchange by celebrating Asia’s vibrant diversity, inspiring empathy, and fostering a better understanding of our interconnected world. Covering the fields of arts, business, culture, education and politics, our programming is rooted in the educational and cultural development of our community – trusting in the power of art, dialogue and ideas to fight prejudice and build a more inclusive society.


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