Hansi Lo Wang

About two years ago, playwright David Henry Hwang turned down an offer to write a play about the brief life and suicide of Army Pvt. Danny Chen.

But an opera? He couldn't refuse.

"This is a story with big emotions, big primary colors in a way, and big plot events," says Hwang, who wrote the libretto for An American Soldier, a new hourlong opera commissioned by Washington National Opera.

You may not hear it when you're listening to Shanghai jazz standards from the 1930s and '40s, but dig deeper into their history and you'll find a generational skip in the record.