FRIENDS NEWSLETTER / EVENTS January - February 2007  

"Bangkok Opera’s production of Somtow’s opera Ayodhya, though plagued with production problems and a bizarre censorship controversy, made operatic history in many ways.

Of the exotic and accessible score, the pundits are already weighing in with acclaim. Scenes from Ayodhya have already been incorporated into the San Francisco Conservatory’s 2007 opera study program. Inquiries about staging new productions have come in from Europe. And there is a growing consensus that Ayodhya contains within its pages arias destined to become operatic “standards”.

Richard Harrell, head of the opera department in San Francisco, said, “The Golden Deer aria is one of those pieces that will soon be in the repertory of every coloraturua soprano.” Director Hans Nieuwenhuis, who heads the Netherlands Opera Studio, said of the oneminute arioso sung by Rama after he has slain Ravan, “a composer needs only to have written one such passage in his life to be assured of always being remembered.”


American violinist Carol Wolowsky, who flew in from Florida to participate in the orchestra, said, “I honestly don't remember when I last played a contemporary composition that conveyed so much musically in depth, beauty and passion”.

The opera found support from very highly placed people in the Thai artistic community, with former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun playing the role of honoirary chair, Senator Kraisak Choonhavan as a very active advisor and SEAWrite Chair M.R. Sukhumband Paribatra on the committee.

It was gratifying to see so many corporations and philanthropists turn out in support of this project which was created to honour HM The King. HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindorn was graciously pleased to attend the premiere of the opera, her first visit to a Bangkok Opera production and one that was anticipated with great excitement by all as Her Royal Highness is a well known Ramayana expert.


In a departure from the Thai themes of his last three operas, Somtow Sucharitkul is now composing an opera about one of the most celebrated events in japanese history, the Battle of Dan-no-Ura which occurred in the year 1187. “There is a scene from the Tale of the Heike which has haunted me for twenty years,” Somtow explained. “It’s at the end of the this huge sea battle. The women of the court, watching from on board a ship, know they are going to lose the war.

At that point, this old nun, who is the grandmother of the eight-year-old Emperor, tells her grandson ‘beneath the waves, there is another capital,’ and taking the child in her arms, leaps into the sea … followed by the entire court. It’s a moment so profoundly operatic that it had to be done as an opera. It’s basically Dialogues des Carmelites meets Kagemusha.” If the opera is completed on schedule, it will open the 2007/08 season in December 2007. Because 2007 is the 120th anniversary.

Bangkok Opera’s “Youtube” Channel
attracts a young crowd

In a move to draw more young people into the opera community, Bangkok Opera has opened a channel on to show clips of its productions. In the first days of operation, the seven-minute “Ravan’s Death Scene” from Ayodhya drew hundreds of hits. Subscribers tended to be in their twenties. Youtube clips have also been placed on the website.

Hello, Goodbye

In 2007 Bangkok Opera will say goodbye to its beloved Chorus Master, Karen TenBrink, who is expecting a new addition to the family and will perhaps be departing from Thailand thereafter. Karen, an extremely accomplished musician who graduated from both Michigan and Oberlin, was one of Bangkok Opera’s most popular personalities, stepping it at the last moment on the 2005 production of Mae Naak and leading the Orpheus Choir brilliantly through productions of such major choral works as the Thai premiere of Tippett’s A Child of Our Time.

Bangkok Opera also sees a new in-house production executive taking the reins. Jeni Saeyang, and Australian citizen of Thai and Chinese origin, has had considerable experience in film production and public relations and will be joining the Bangkok Opera team this January, with The Rape of Lucretia being her first project.


Henry Akina tapped for “Butterfly”

With a striking new concept for Butterfly which will draw on Japanese theatrical techniques, the director of the Hawaiian Opera Theatre, Henry Akina, says he intends to “make a statement” with his upcoming production of Madama Butterfly which closes the 2006/7 Season. The designer will be Japanese-American Dean Shibuya of San Francisco. Most recently, Henry Akina Henry Akina was last seen in this part of the world directing a striking Cav & Pag at the Macau Festival.

Tours have begun booking for
Wagner this summer

Advance publicity on the Bangkok Opera’s July production of Die Walküre has meant that overseas groups are already making reservations, with the first booking blocks coming in from Hong Kong and Australia.

Tourism and Publicity consultant Bill Condie has already spoken with Diethelm about a tour packaging relationship, and in our meeting with TAT, David Nardone, Dr. Nadaprapai, and Somtow emphasized the importance of opera tourism as a new source of the kind of upscale rourists Thailand is looking for.

The first episode of Bangkok’s Ring Cycle was greeted with enthusiasm and not a little controversy by critics world-wide. The Bangkok Opera’s Richard Wagner Circle web page contains excerpts from many of the international reviews and blog discussions.

Trisdee conducts Monteverdi at
Concertgebouw to standing ovation

A few days before Christmas 2006, 20-year-old Trisdee na Patalung, Bangkok Opera’s associate conductor, became the first Thai to conduct in Amsterdam’s venerable Concertgebouw hall when he directed an all-Monteverdi evening with a baroque ensemble and soloists of the Opera Studio Nederland. The concert included the complete Combattimento di Tancredi, an opera in miniature, as well as excerpts from Monteverdi’s famed operas L’Incoronazione di Poppea and Il Ritorno d’Ulisse as well as Il Lamento della Ninfa.

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