ALONG THE ROARING RIVER: MY WILD RIDE FROM MAO TO THE MET
"Little in Tian's childhood suggested he would become the most celebrated Chinese-born opera singer on the international stage. His early exposure to music was largely limited to the drab propaganda blaring over public-address systems, such as the Cultural Revolution's omnipresent anthem, 'The East is Red.' As art solely served the Revolution's goals, anything else, particularly Western music, was condemned as "spiritually polluted." While he was supporting himself as a worker in the Beijing Boiler Factory, Tian joined the Factory's Thought Propaganda Team, cranking out ditties such as "Our Lives are Full of Sunshine" and often ditching work to carouse with his equally rowdy friends. He realized he was on a dead-end path but also recognized that traditional avenues of escape from the factory — such as the military or the university — were politically closed to him. After a stranger observed that the loud-mouthed young man had promise as an opera singer, Tian threw himself into voice lessons, ultimately landing a soloist slot at the prestigious Central Philharmonic Society. But his "hooliganism" also flourished: Tian was almost banished from the program for wiggling his hips, Elvis-style, while singing 'Jambalaya' ('son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou') before the horrified citizens of Harbin," begins Todd B. Sollis in his glowing review of Along the Roaring River in Opera News.
The book chronicles Tian's truly wild, and truly inspiring ride from Mao to the Met--his transformation--beginning with a fateful encounter with Luciano Pavarotti, and encountering bias against Chinese singers along the way--from child of the Cultural Revolution to man of the world.