For the first time, a Hmong story heads for the opera

When someone mentions opera, what comes to mind? Verdi, Puccini, maybe Mozart? Probably not Kao Kalia Yang. The St. Paul writer never set out to get into opera.

In 2016 she wrote her book, “The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father.” On March 9, that story will have its debut at the Minnesota Opera. It’s already making history as the first Hmong story to be adapted for the operatic stage.

Kalia Yang spoke with MPR News host Cathy Wurzer about her story.

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Bee Yang

Hmong song poetry | kwv txhiaj hmoob

Thaum Hluas Txog Hnub Laus: When the Days of Youth are Gone (Bee Yang, 2014)

This is an album of Hmong song poetry, kwv txhiaj hmoob, composed and sung by Bee Yang, Kao Kalia Yang’s father. The album notes and English translation of one of the songs are by Kao Kalia Yang.

Kwv txhiaj is, in the words of Ralph Ellison on the American Blues, “an impulse to keep the painful details and episodes of a brutal experience alive in one’s aching consciousness, to finger its jagged grain, and to transcend it, not by the consolation of philosophy but by squeezing from it a near-tragic, near-cosmic lyricism. As a form, the blues [and kwv txhiaj] is an autobiographical chronicle of personal catastrophe expressed lyrically.”

NOTE:  The duration of the songs do not reflect the actual song length.  Please consider ordering the CD for the full songs.  Thank you.

*This CD is available for purchase for $15.  Click below to order:

Bee Yang: Hmong Song Poetry


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