Enjie Lian took a leap of faith when he dropped his computer science studies at Edmonds Community College.
He had emigrated from China two years earlier with the support of his parents, who thought the program would lead to a well-paying job.
But after the first year at EdCC, something musical was stirring inside him.
“I really liked opera because it combines these two subjects: singing and performing at the same time,” he said. “I also just appreciate presenting beautiful stories and music to the audience.”
Lian enrolled in the music program. Though he’d performed with youth choirs and studied classical music in China, opera was completely new. But his passion — and confidence — grew after he enrolled in Seattle Opera’s Teen Vocal Studio, a college preparatory program for young singers with futures in music and opera.
Lian, 18, will play the lead role in “Wilde Tales,” staging Feb. 8-9 at Cornish Playhouse in Seattle. The performance is part of Seattle Opera’s Youth Opera Project, a comprehensive training program for students ages 7-18.
“Wilde Tales” is a parable based on the works of Oscar Wilde, the late-19th century Irish poet and playwright. The story is about a resurrected prince who realizes generosity and empathy are the only ways to save his destitute kingdom. He enlists the help of an unassuming swallow to deliver gifts to the poor.
“He realizes beauty is not the things you buy, but what you do,” Lian said. “It’s just a very kind and touching story.”
Lian trains with piano and voice instructor Linda Kappus at EdCC. Kappus, whose worked in opera and music theater before joining the college.
“He was very enthusiastic, excited and passionate about singing,” she said. “He just loves opera.”
But, there was still plenty of work to be done. While the role of the prince is geared toward baritones, Lian is more of a tenor.
“When he came here, his voice was heavy,” she said. “As a teacher, you’re always trying to find things you can say and exercises to help them improve, not only their voice, but also their psyche. We talk a lot about breathing, tension, relaxation and the language.”
The music scored by Laura Karpman is also modern, Kappus said, which means there will be many moments of dissonance between the piano and singers.
“It’s not like you’re learning ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ by any stretch of the imagination,” she said. “It’s a challenge.”
But Lian said he’s up for it. He’s helped alleviate some of his nerves by assuming responsibility for the 70-member cast.
“You have to tell yourself you’re a leader,” he said. “You have to practice the music as perfect as you can to be a leader for the children.”
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, email@example.com. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.
If you go
Enjie Lian will perform the lead role in “Wilde Tales” at 7 p.m. Feb. 8 and 2 p.m. Feb. 9 at Cornish Playhouse, 201 Mercer St., Seattle. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for youth. Call 206-389-7676 or go to www.seattleopera.org for more information.