Cuatro Corridos composer, Lei Liang, reflects on the impact human trafficking in his life:
I feel a special connection to this project. When I left China at 17 years of age, I used to wait tables in Chinese restaurants to make ends meet. At these restaurants, I came to know some Chinese workers who had come to the US illegally. They were smuggled in and went through unimaginable sufferings to arrive here, leaving behind their families. They cook for us and provide us delicious meals, yet most of us would never know of their existence and their stories: they are “invisible.”
I remember my co-worker’s story. He had been a junior high school teacher in China. He told me how he was smuggled to the US and what he witnessed: rapes, abuses, and life-and-death moments when the smugglers wanted to abandon them in the sea.
He cut vegetables in the restaurant, and he always had a bandage wrapped around his left-hand. He was slow. The restaurant owner constantly complained and rushed him, even though he kept cutting into his hand. “I was a teacher of Chinese classics; the knife makes me feel so clumsy,” he said.
He and the others were my co-workers, and we became friends. Hearing their stories, I always felt that these “invisible” and “unheard” workers needed to be heard, but I didn’t know what I could do as a composer.
This chamber opera, Cuatro Corridos, resonates with me on a profound level; in a way, I feel as if I finally can contribute to the project that I always wanted to be part of – giving a voice to those who are unheard.