A dozen years before Wei Wu shared a Grammy win Sunday night as part of the cast of Mason Bates’s opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, the Beijing-born opera singer’s first experience in America was as an understudy with Central City Opera.
Gue Wenjing, a composer and professor at Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music, had written Poet Li Bai, an opera based on the famous Chinese poet in the Tang Dynasty. The opera was set to have its world premiere with Central City Opera with the renowned Chinese bass Hao Jiang Tian in the leading role, and three understudies were needed. Wu, who had just finished his undergrad studies, got the gig and came to Colorado in the summer of 2007.
Tian, who studied at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music and has been with the Metropolitan Opera for two decades, became Wu’s mentor and told him about music programs at DU and the University of Colorado, where he ended up landing a full scholarship and started in the fall of 2008. Five years later, Wu, with some help from John and Anna Sie, had a master’s degree and a professional certificate in opera.
Wu says that CU, where he made many friends and met his future wife, played a very important role in his life.
“When I look back, I barely spoke English,” he says. “I was a shy boy. Until now, the whole progress, of course, all the teachers and friends...they helped me. For all I remember, they all showed their love and support every time."
“That’s why I’m always very grateful for everything, because I think I met so many people in my life that are always showing me their gratitude and helped very generously when I was facing a problem or a hard point,” he adds.
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Wu went on to be part of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program at Washington National Opera for three years; afterward, he signed with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, where’s he’s lived for the last three years.
Last year, Wu was part of the recording of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, which won Best Opera Recording at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. Wu plays Kôbun Chino Otogawa, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’s spiritual adviser who also presided over Jobs’s marriage to Laurene Powell. Wu was one of the principal soloists, along with Sasha Cooke, Jessica E. Jones, Edward Parks and Garrett Sorenson; Michael Christie conducted the opera and Elizabeth Ostrow produced it.
Other artists with Colorado ties nominated for this year's Grammy Awards include jazz artists Tia Fuller and Ron Miles. And Don McKinney, a CU director of bands and associate professor of conducting, was nominated for Best Classical Compendium for producing the Dallas Winds recording John Williams at the Movies.