The Song Poet

A father’s love, a family’s journey.

The first Hmong story adapted for the operatic stage, St. Paul writer Kao Kalia Yang’s memoir The Song Poet comes to life in a new opera performed entirely by young people. It tells the story of Yang’s family and her song poet father as war forces them from Laos into a Thai refugee camp and ultimately on to the world of a St. Paul housing project and factory in Minnesota. With his poetry, Kalia’s father inspires hope in his impoverished family, polishing their grim reality so that they might shine.

The Song Poet speaks to so many of the big themes of the best operas I’ve seen: the tumult of war, the loneliness of yearning for a parent that is not there, the desperate journey to find a true and passionate love,” says Yang. “I hope opera lovers—young and old and everywhere—will cheer for the coming of The Song Poet to Minnesota Opera.”


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About the Book

About the Author & Librettist

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Kao Kalia Yang

Kao Kalia Yang is a Hmong-American writer. Her second book, The Song Poet, won the 2016 Minnesota Book Award in Creative Nonfiction Memoir.

About the Stage Director

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Rick Shiomi

Rick Shiomi is an internationally recognized, award-winning Japanese Canadian playwright, stage director, artistic director and taiko artist.

About the Composer

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Jocelyn Hagen

Jocelyn Hagen composes music that has been described as “simply magical” and “dramatic and deeply moving.” Her first forays into composition were via songwriting, and this is very evident in her work.

In the News

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War and refuge: Minnesota Opera to set Hmong story to music

Read the story MPR News ran about the forthcoming opera rendition of Kao Kalia Yang’s book The Song Poet.

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