Chinatown | 唐人街 歌劇

September 2022

Music by Alice Ping Yee Ho
Libretto by Madeleine Thien

Chinatown—although a Western opera—incorporates traditional Chinese themes, sounds and sensibilities. It is a story of racism and resistance, neighbourhood and family. And it is a love story.

It is the story of two families, and a chorus of ghosts, beginning with the building of the Canadian Pacific Railroad through to our own times. It deals with violence and despair, the Head Tax, the Exclusion Act, paper sons, and paper promises.

Fusing both Chinese and Western instruments together, Chinatown is the first opera written about any Chinatown in Canada. The libretto interweaves English, Cantonese, and Hoisan.

Cast and Creative Team

  • Mary Chun, conductor
  • Desdemona Chiang, director
  • Spencer Britten, tenor
  • Vania Chan, soprano
  • Erica Iris Huang, mezzo-soprano
  • Derek Kwan, tenor
  • Matthew Li, bass
  • Emma Parkinson, mezzo-soprano

Members of the chorus:

  • Turgut Akmete
  • Srinath Covilakam
  • Brandon Higa
  • Yenny Lee
  • Addison Li
  • William Liu
  • Kristian Lo
  • Tan Vu
  • Yuhui Wang


The Story of Chinatown

Interviews with the creators and cast of Chinatown:

The Music of Chinatown

Here is Vania Chan in the Keefer Street aria, from Act Two, Scene Two:

Here is Derek Kwan in the Paper Son aria, from Act Two, Scene Two:

And here a preview of Erica Iris Huang as the Hoisan Singer, from Act One, Scene One:

Emma Parkinson performs Anna’s Aria:

Matthew Li sings Xon Pon’s Aria:

Finally, Spencer Britten sings Saihin’s Aria: