A “Silent Minority” Speaks Up
When tenor Nicholas Phan competed in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition in 2003, participants were directed to present a “song of their country.” For Phan, an American of Chinese and Greek descent, the edict posed a dilemma. “I was immediately drawn to offerings like ‘Shenandoah’ or ‘Simple Gifts,’ but I didn’t feel comfortable doing them,” he says. “In hindsight, it was because I didn’t feel white enough to sing those songs. It drove home the sense that I am an American, but I don’t necessarily feel very American.” Phan eventually chose to steer away from traditional American music and sing “Litany” from John Musto’s cycle Shadow of the Blues.
This article was published in the Summer 2021 issue of Opera America Magazine.