Somtow Sucharitkul’s

 
 

In a departure from his last four operas, Madana, Mae Naak Ayodhya, and The Silent Prince, Somtow Sucharitkul is working on Dan no Ura, an opera about one of the most famous naval battles in history — the Battle of Dan-no-Ura in Twelfth Century Japan.  The opera was produced to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Thai-Japanese relations and will premiere at the Thailand Cultural Center at some future date.  The opera is inspired by one of Japan’s iconic works of literature, The Take of the Heike, and Somtow has written the libretto with the help of Alex Kerr, one of the world’s most premier Japanologists.


“There is nothing more operatic than the climax of this famous battle,” said Somtow, alluding to the celebrated moment in which the nun Nii Dono, grandmother of eight-year-old Emperor Antoku, realizing that all is lost, tells her grandson that she will take him to rule over another capital beneath the sea and, taking the child in her arms, leaps overboard to her death … followed by all the women of the court.  For years, since his first encounter with this story in the book Kwaidan by Lafcadio Hearn, Somtow has been composing the nun’s aria in his head.  After learning from officials of TAT that the anniversary was coming up, he accelerated his composing schedule in order to finish the opera within the anniversary year. “I first mentioned this project to the former Japanese Ambassador three years ago,” Somtow says.  “Everyone agreed that it was amazing that this had not been made into an opera before.”


Unfortunately, the opera has taken much longer to compose than originally envisaged but after six years composition is finally drawing to a close.  Somtow hopes for a 2013 production date at this stage, with the anniversary of Thai-Japanese relations having come and gone...


The world-wide success of Somtow’s recent Ayodhya, composed in honour of H.M. the King’s Sixtieth Regnal Year, has been quite gratifying to the composer.  “The San Fransico Conservatory has placed Ayodhya in its opera syllabus this year,” he said, “and we have been flooded with inquiries about taking the opera to Europe.”  The recent successes of The Silent Prince in Houston and Mae Naak in London are paving the way for what may be his most spectacular opera yet.


The Tale of the Heike a fitting subject to celebrate Thai-Japanese relations,” said the composer, “and the Thailand Cultural Center, which was presented to the Thai people by the Japanese government, is of course the most suitable venue for this festival production.”


Somtow’s relationship with Japan and Japanese culture goes back to 1974 when, as a 21-year-old, he represented Thailand at the Asian Composer’s League Conference-Festival in Kyoto.  His composition Cemeteries received its world premiere there by members of the Kyoto Municipal Symphony Orchestra.  Afterwards, “the Czech leader of the orchestra embraced me on stage and called me ‘maestro’.  That moment changed my life.”  Later, Somtow’s first science fiction novel, the Locus Award-winning Starship and Haiku, was set in a futuristic Japan.


 

world premiere

August 11, 2014

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