Cast & Crew
“It’s kinda like Lakahon Bassac,”  I tried to explain as we took our seats, “it’s a story told by singing.” And heavy on the drama.   With us were Sing Yang Pirom, Em Satya, Nhek Sophaleap and a host of other cartoonists for the ‘Artist Evening’ performance of opera ‘Where Elephants Weep‘.

Em Satya and Family
(Above: Em Satya & family)

It didn’t disappoint, and it was great to finally see the show that’s been years in the making. My only regret is we couldn’t take pictures of the show and set inside, but that’s show biz, and a nudge for you to check it out yourself.

The show was accessible to both a Khmer and foreign audience, and while subtitled, many could get the gist of the dual-language story due to savvy staging. Ieng Sithul added a real sense of grounding and gravitas to the show.  Tony Re-al stole his scenes as a gleefully glib rapping bodyguard – having seen the show shape up over time, he was well chosen for commentary on centre stage action.


Some familiar faces were back in town: nice to see John Burt, Him Sophy and Catherine Filloux in their element.  Also managed to catch up with opera singer Amara, and (PP Post dubbed ‘glamour girl’) Duey Kol – the former playing a ‘beer girl’ as well as general ensemble member, the latter helping out with the production. Both did short stints with Cambodian Living Arts in 2003 & 2004, and are back for more! Now that’s follow-through.

TV Talk

Apparently the show has evolved and changed a lot since the premiere in Lowell, which no doubt reflects creative minds at work.  How many operas can you watch, and then get to meet the cast and crew directly after? Phnom Penh is a small city but in this instance, I’m not complaining.  Seeing the Cambodian Living Arts crew, as well as friends from Siem Reap, Amrita Performing Arts, Sovanna Phum, Epic, and Meta-House made for a great time.

Without the pressure of the opening night, the crew seemed pretty relaxed and happy to be doing their thing.  Goss has it that Sok An showed up the first night, which made for a little nervousness. Would the show cut too close to the bone in social commentary?  Well, judging by the fact that H.E. sent a heap of his pals to the second night would indicate he liked it.  The organizers had to scramble to get some extra seats. And it’s hoped that there might be performance for the King, pending protocol.

Cambodian Livng Arts

Despite rumors of a third week, John Burt regretfully noted that while there is heaps of enthusiasm, logistically the opera would lose money the longer it stays here.  International stars + low cost local seats = a negative cash balance. But there are definitely more staging plans in the works. And I’ll be back with some friends for the final show.

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