Hello, readers! My name is Gauri - if you’ve been a frequent reader of these posts, you haven’t seen me yet. But today, I’m talking about an opera that portrays an issue much of us have heard about in a whole new light.
Let me give you some background. As we enter the new year, we have to keep in mind that January has a significance that isn’t just limited to New Year’s parties and the numbing of fingers in the winter cold. This month is Human Trafficking Awareness month, giving attention to the tens of millions of victims that have been stolen away from their homes and forced to work in places where they are alone, afraid, and perpetually in danger. The cold reality of this situation is that it returns us to centuries ago, where masters and slaves were present and social stratification prevented people from ever leaving the horrendous pain they faced every day. It deprives people of their unalienable rights, things that philosophers decided years ago were given to every human being.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Regardless of class, race, beliefs, these rights are supposed to be available to all. Too often, we find that people are hindered from having them. Du Yun’s opera, Angel’s Bone, depicts this in a captivating manner, taking its watchers on an emotional journey that communicates the horrors of trafficking. In this performance, two angels travel to Earth, wanting to experience its beauty firsthand. They are found by Mr. and Mrs. X.E., who at first treat the angels with care, helping them recuperate from their travels. However, the opera then takes a dramatic shift, with the couple violently taking the angels’ wings off, and making them go into sex work for profit. They believe that the angels have unnatural allure that will make them money. This closely resembles the process of human trafficking: traffickers will often seem to be guiders for the weak in society’s murky waters, but then end up hurting them more. The exchange of trust for protection ends up to be what kills the innocent, and the “angels” lose their wings.
Du Yun’s music in the opera has a variety of styles - you can find almost any style has an influence on this body of work. For example, in Scene VI: Brick J, the Girl Angel pleads for her safety and relents against the abuse she faces in a piece that heavily takes from punk-rock. However, in Scene V: We Will Fly Away, there is heavy opera and Renaissance influence. This difference in styles lends Du Yun to tell a story of many cultures, with feelings being expressed in different tempos and rhythms.
Listening to this body of work allows you to understand how human trafficking is not something far away - it is in your backyard, growing from the roots of selfishness and desire for money, and finally becoming the desire to prune the innocent. The angels have lost their wings, and it is up to us to try and help to save more angels that come to find us.