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Let s your love lead you

 

Let s your love lead you

 

Let s your love lead you

 

 

Review
Voices of Thais
By: NICK WILGUS
Published: 1/07/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Outlook
Bangkok Opera's Thais saw its official premiere in the Kingdom last Tuesday night to a lightly packed house. HRH Princess Soamsawali presided.
 Thais has a dream.

It was a Thai first and perhaps an Asian first - bringing Thais to life on the stage in this part of the world. It may, in fact, have been the first time that a Massenent opera was performed on a stage in Asia. History in the making!
Thais is an opera in three acts by Jules Massenet, written to a French libretto by Louis Gallet, and based on the novel by Anatole France titled Thais. Massenet was popular in his time, the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Then his work fell out of favour. Still, Manon and Werther are still performed. Massenet died in 1912.
When Thais got underway, after a lengthy delay, a lovely opera ensued with famed Southeast Asian diva Nancy Yuen in the title role as Thais, and Stefan Sanchez as the religious fruit cake Athanael, who wants to convert Thais to God and "save her soul". I had a distinct dislike for this self-righteous hypocrite and it was sad to see Thais fall for Anthanael's nonsense and go off with him to a convent. That he couldn't distinguish between love and lust was certainly typical of these religious types. It was reminiscent of the sex scandal in the Catholic Church, but we won't get into that mess. Suffice it to say, some things never change, and the libretto was certainly insightful.
Though it is said to be one of the most difficult roles, Nancy Yuen made the role of Thais seem almost easy. She did a spot on, terrific job. Stefan Paul Sanchez, a baritone, had a hard time keeping up with her in the role of Athanael, but her erstwhile lover Nicias, played by tenor Javier Agullo, had no trouble making himself heard.
 

 Thais and Nicias, her current flame.

Bass-baritone Pitchaya Kemasingki played the role of Palemon, Anthanael's monastic supervisor, who wisely advises him to stay away from the affairs of the world. Pitchaya might have done better with a bit more volume. He seemed very quiet, and his Palemon was very restrained and cautious. Perhaps that was intentional as I know Pitchaya can belt out the notes when he has a mind to.
Athanael says, at one point, "How glorious it would be to vanquish you", referring to Thais. That seemed to be all Athanael was intent on with a single-mindedness that was a bit disturbing. Sanchez brought a lot of pathos to the character. Thais herself proved elusive, charming, sad, filled with a longing to be beautiful forever. All the acting - even among the non-speaking parts - was very well done. The dream sequence in the beginning was very effective.
Familiar face Susheilagh Angpiroj played the role of Mother Albine. Nicia's two servants provided wonderful comic relief - Ema Naito as Crobyle and Jarospree Dechudon as Myrtale. Their antics kept the opera light-hearted. The cast included Monique Klongtruandroke as La charmeuse. Also featured were the Orpheus Choir of Bangkok and the Siam Philharmonic Orchestra. Darren Royston directed; Somtow Sucharitkul conducted.
The orchestra, at times, could be a tad overwhelming, drowning out the voices of the singers once or twice. Not that the orchestra didn't do a superb job, which they did. Some of the numbers were quite moving and effective and of course, the famous Meditation, played on violin with orchestra backing, was simply lovely. Conducted by Somtow Sucharitkul, the orchestra proved itself more than equal to the demands put to it.
 

 Thais lives a debauched life.

There are those who say that Massenet's music can be quite dry, but I did not find that to be the case at all. I felt that it sat well with the storyline and helped convey the appropriate emotions.
Kudos to the costume designer, who gave the whole thing a certain ancient flair. The sets were minimalist, functional, consisting of vertical bas reliefs, one on each side, that gave a hint of ancient Rome - or Greece - or was it Egypt? The lighting was very good, as was the stage direction. Subtitles in Thai and English were provided to allow the audience an opportunity to follow along.
It was nice to see the cooperation going on between Bangkok Opera, the Siam Philharmonic and the Orpheus Choir of Bangkok. Nice, too, that an international cast could play together so well on the stage, bringing to life a most difficult opera. Multiculturalism, indeed. This production of a French opera was designed to coincide with 350 years of relations between Thailand and France.
Thais was a decided success and Nancy Yuen can count herself among one of the few sopranos in the world who have been able to pull off the role with aplomb. That alone was worth the price of admission.
One more performance was scheduled for the night after. If you missed it, you missed a bit of history!


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Let s your love lead you

Let s your love lead you Let s your love lead you


Let s your love lead youLet s your love lead youLet s your love lead you
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Posted on Thu 30 Jul 2009 10:21

         

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