AAPI Voices: Brian Vu
This May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! All month, we’ll be highlighting the incredible contributions of the AAPI artists in our community. Recently, we sat down with several AAPI members of the MN Opera family to talk about how their AAPI identities have impacted their opera careers and what they would like to see change in the opera industry with regard to AAPI representation.
Described by The New York Times as having an “ample and pleasing tone,” tenor Brian Vu is an exciting performer recognized for his vocal and dramatic abilities. During the 2020-21 season, Mr. Vu made his tenor debut with The Atlanta Opera as Soldier in Der Kaiser von Atlantis and in a concert of Kurt Weill repertoire. He was also slated return to the Metropolitan Opera, singing the Journalist in Lulu (COVID19), covering the Huntsman in Rusalka and covering Novice’s Friend in Billy Budd (COVID19). In the spring of 2022, Mr. Vu will make his Dallas Opera debut, singing Prince Yamadori in Madama Butterfly. Future engagements include his debut in a joint production between LA Opera and Opera Omaha. Brian is a First Place Winner of the Lotte Lenya Competition, a MONC Grand Finalist, and Sullivan Foundation Award winner. After over a year of isolation, Brian is excited to be fully vaccinated, hug friends and dance at the disco again.
1. In what ways has your AAPI identity impacted your career journey in opera?
It’s something I carry with pride. For as many AAPI students as there are studying at music conservatories all over the world, the number of AAPI opera singers actually working in the industry is very, very small. My job as an Asian American man working in opera is to address microaggressions towards our community in and out of the opera industry and to show my AAPI brothers and sisters that there IS room for them at the table.
2. Did you have any AAPI role models or mentors when you were starting your career? What qualities did you admire about them?
Andrew Stenson. We met my first year as a Glimmerglass Young Artist and he was the first Asian American man I had ever seen in a leading role at an opera company and the first to actually have a dialogue with me about the challenges and prejudice we as AAPI singers face in the opera industry. A topic I felt I couldn’t address with anyone before I met him. He is also an amazing colleague, artist, and chef/sommelier extraordinaire.
3. What changes would you like to see in the opera industry, specifically in relation to the AAPI community?
I’d love to see more AAPI leaders administratively and creatively. Change happens from the top and we need more AAPI gatekeepers at the highest level with administrations and board members reminding them of our community and creative needs.