This opera imagines a story based on that particular phrase. Chamber opera BOUND is about duties bounded to people and the sincere decision one has to make and choose. The Vietnamese (Eastern) idea of “family first” is in conflict with the American (Western) notion of the individual’s success. The Mother “Khanh” leaves her husband and children because she has found a new voice, one that has been squashed by her husband’s old fashioned notion of the subservient wife. Her immigrant experience has forced her to take care of her family first. Also, she has often been haunted by the war-trauma and determines to escape by leaving her family. But she has passed down the guilt of “serving” to Diane, who effectively becomes her Mother: she works two jobs to take care of her brother and sister and her father is never home. Between her personal needs (school) and family duty, she chooses the later as she is bounded to it. The choice judge Moriarty has to make, also presents a dilemma. As a father of a teenage, he has to choose either forgiving Diane or enforcing the law of the land. Bounded to the duty of his job, he sentences Diane to prison although he also felt for her and has pity on her. During the entire opera, the stories of the past and present are interwoven.
Librettist, Bao-Long Chu, says about the work: “To me, a Vietnamese refugee living in America, the notion of being bound to one’s culture (and the struggles therein) is not just an idea, but my life writ large.”
The story of Diane Tran and her struggle of being torn into different directions – between Eastern and Western ideologies – is so common amongst first and second generation immigrants trying to make lives for themselves in the United States. Especially today, when the very concept of immigration is being challenged at the highest levels of our government, it is of the utmost importance to present perspectives, narratives, and stories that depict the real-life struggles and situations immigrants face every day – to humanize them, and to educate others.