Where Elephants Weep, the first known contemporary Cambodian opera, and a love story from a land where civil strife nearly extinguished a great ancient culture, receives an American preview run of performances in Lowell, MA, home to the country’s second largest Cambodian population, April 27-29, 2007. Performances take place at Lowell High School’s Cyrus W. Irish Auditorium (50 Fr. Morissette Blvd.) April 27, 7 p.m., April 28, 8 p.m. and April 29, 2 p.m. Sung in English and Khmer with surtitles in both languages. Tickets are $20, $10 for students, and can be purchased at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium box office in person or through Ticketmaster at ticketmaster.com or by phone at (617) 931-2000 in MA or (603) 868-7300 in NH. For more information, call (978) 446-7162 or visit www.whereelephantsweep.net. The opera will be premiered in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in January 2008.
Him Sophy, a Russian-trained Cambodian composer who lives in Phnom Penh, was commissioned by Cambodian Living Arts (CLA), a project of World Education based in Boston, to create the musical score, which draws on classical western, ancient Cambodian and contemporary popular American music. The libretto is by award-winning playwright Catherine Filloux, former Fullbright Senior Specialist in playwrighting in Cambodia. The project is developed and produced by John Burt, theatre producer and Chair Emeritus of CLA, and by Amrita Performing Arts, a non-profit devoted to promoting and sustaining the revival and presentation of Cambodian performing arts, in the wake of their near-extinction at the hands of a brutal regime.
Where Elephants Weep tells a modern story about Cambodians returning to their country following 30 years of civil strife. Loosely based on an ancient Cambodian love story, the opera follows Sam, a refugee from the Khmer Rouge genocide, who leaves America to return to his homeland, committed to finding his roots. He unexpectedly falls in love with Bopha, a Cambodian pop star. The story examines generational and social dislocations caused by war, as well as more traditional clashes with modernity. While following the traditional storyline, the opera also speaks to the experiences of some of the artists involved in the project, namely Arn Chorn-Pond, founder of CLA, and composer Him Sophy. Both survived labor camps and atrocities committed during the Khmer Rouge’s four-year reign.
“Cambodia has never had a modern opera like this before,” said Him. “The work examines and speaks to how Cambodia is changing, how Western and Cambodian cultures mix together, and how our histories and futures are connected.” The music features a 12th-century Cambodian pin peat ensemble, an array of traditional Cambodian instruments, a Western-style rock band, and a string quartet from the Lowell-based New England Orchestra. Some of the traditional Cambodian instruments were even “reinvented” to better accommodate Him’s innovative ensemble and visionary score. This hybrid orchestra will be conducted by Kay George Roberts, founder and conductor of the New England Orchestra. Additional music and orchestral development is provided by Scot Stafford.
Leading up to the preview performances, there will be a month-long residency program with the musicians from Cambodia and an international cast from New York, providing an opportunity for cross-cultural exchanges for students at UMass Lowell, Middlesex Community College, students in the Lowell schools and the residents of the City and region.
Where Elephants Weep is made possible by an unprecedented and innovative public-private partnership between many organizations. Partners include Cambodian Living Arts, a project of World Education of Boston; John Burt Productions of New York, University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Middlesex Community College, Lowell National Historical Park, City of Lowell, Lowell High School, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Greater Lowell Community Foundation, New England Orchestra and the Cultural Organization of Lowell. Cambodian organizations include Cambodian Expressions, Angkor Dance Troupe, Cambodian Artists’ Association, Light of Cambodian Children, Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association, Southeast Asian Water Festival Committee, Greater Lowell Community Charter School, and Metta Heath Center/Lowell Community Health Center.
Official Website: http://www.whereelephantsweep.net
Added by secronin on March 27, 2007