Bangkok Post reviews
Thai opera breaks its silence
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: May 27, 2013 at 8:28 am
Two years ago, Somtow Sucharitkul's The Silent Prince, an opera about the Buddha, premiered in Houston, Texas, to packed houses and critical acclaim. It was the first time an opera by a Thai person had its world premiere in a major operatic capital.
Thai audiences have had to wait some time to see this masterwork by Thailand's most renowned living composer.
Last year, about 2,000 people received invitations to a special preview performance on Dec 5 to honour HM the King's birthday anniversary.
Those who missed it will have the chance to see the opera next weekend. However, there will be only two public performances, held at the Thailand Cultural Centre under the auspices of the Department of Cultural Promotion.
The Silent Prince tells the story of Prince Temiya, a former incarnation of the Lord Buddha, who must choose between obedience to his father and taking a human life. Unable to decide, he retreats into a silence broken only at the very end of the story, when he is compelled to reveal his identity as the Boddhisatva.
Set in Benares in legendary times, the story weaves a rich, sensuous visual and aural tapestry. There are scenes set in heaven and hell as well as on earth. Gods and goddess appear by magic, angels bring the baby Boddhisatva down from the sky, and spirits from hell haunt Temiya as he remembers his past lives.
One of the greatest challenges of The Silent Prince was creating an opera in which the main character does not sing until the last five minutes.
"I had to make sure this was a major surprise and that the audience would jump out of their skins when the Lord Buddha finally speaks," said Somtow, Thailand's first Silpathorn Kittikhun Artist. "So I wrote the part for the rarest possible male voice _ that of a male soprano."
Fortunately, Thailand has a male soprano, Jak Cholvijarn, who is also a scholar of Buddhism. There are only a few such voices in the world.
An international cast from four continents plus some of Thailand's most famous opera singers star in this production. There is a large chorus and an orchestra with top soloists, conducted by Thailand's best-known young conductor, Trisdee na Patalung.
Somtow will direct the production with designs by award-winning artist Dean Shibuya, who recently designed Reya _ The Musical. About 100 performers will be involved, including dancers, singers and musicians. Tickets cost 500, 1,000, 1,500 and 2,000 baht and can be purchased from Thai Ticket Major booths. A limited number of free invitations will be made available to special groups such as schools, religious associations, clubs and universities.
To apply for these free invitations, email email@example.com.