Mozart to Meet Angkor

Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Opera, culture

Performance of a Cambodian Magic Flute in Phnom Penh in 2018

Four exceptional representations of a Cambodian Magic Flute will take place at Angkor Wat Archeological Park for four performances between November 16 and 20. It will blend Cambodian music and dances with the operatic masterwork of Austria’s most famous musician. 

Merging mythological Cambodian storytelling with fantastical Mozartian opera, A Cambodian Magic Flute creates new cultural dialogue in four performances from 16-20 November 2020, held in the breath-taking Angkor Archaeological Park in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the APSARA National Authority.

In a journey from darkness to light, self-discovery and enlightenment, the flute’s magic has the power to turn sorrow to joy: it celebrates the national pride of Cambodia and the revival and regeneration of the performing arts. The production involves more than 50 traditional Cambodian musicians and dancers in an international cast of 120 performers, directed by Stefano Vizioli and conducted by Aaron Carpenè.

A Cambodian Magic Flute draws on the strong resonances between the narrative of Mozart’s opera and the staple of traditional Cambodian storytelling: the epic poem, the Cambodian Ramayana, an ancient tale depicted on the temple walls at Angkor.

A Cambodian Magic Flute features an international cast and creative team, including Paolo Fanale as Tamino, Yan Sinan as Sarastro, Amélie Hois as Pamina, Livia Rado as Queen of the Night and Giorgio Caoduro as Papageno. The creative team is completed with Siem Reap-based costume designer Eric Raisina and lighting designer Nevio Cavina, while eight Cambodian players join the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra. The performances are sung in Khmer and German.

Stage Director Stefano Vizioli and Musical Director Aaron Carpenè specialise in presenting Western opera through the traditional performing arts and religion of Asian cultures. In 2013 they brought together an international opera cast with Bhutan’s Royal Academy of Performing Arts for Handel’s Acis and Galatea in a production proclaimed “not just an extraordinary achievement, but a deeply moving human experience” in the New York Times.

Aaron Carpene said: “This is the third international production I have stewarded following the ground-breaking events Opera Bhutan and Japan Orfeo. Mozart and his librettist Schikaneder wanted to lead their audiences into an imaginary far-away world, Tamino is a Japanese Prince and the fantasy ancient Egyptian setting of temples and pyramids. In Mozart at Angkor our audiences will have a heightened experience of the creators’ intentions in this original interpretation, Cambodian music and theatre together with Mozart’s much-loved masterpiece in the setting of the sacred temples of Angkor surrounded by tropical forest. A theatre experience for all the senses!” 

The production is held in memory of the journalist Robert Turnbull, who raised the international profile of arts in Cambodia and aimed to forge cultural dialogue and exchange between Western and Cambodian arts before his death in late 2018. F

The operatic writing of Mozart is fused with traditional Cambodian music including a Pinpeat ensemble, the largest Khmer traditional musical ensemble. Pinpeat ensembles perform the ceremonial music of the royal courts and temples of Cambodia, including court dances, shadow plays, and religious ceremonies. Mozart at Angkor Pinpeat Ensemble will restore the historic pin (harp), as depicted on the ancient walls of Angkor Wat temple, to the centre of the ensemble of ten wind and percussion instruments following a gap of 800 years.

Under choreographer Nam Narim, an ensemble of thirty dancers perform the art of the Royal Ballet of Cambodia, the highest form of Khmer classical dance. They are joined by two Yikè artists and their popular form of Cambodian musical theatre. Performances of A Cambodian Magic Flute take place in the evocative Chau Say Tevoda Temple, a 12th-century Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu and built under the reign of King Suryavarman II. It has been restored extensively and reopened in 2009.

Special package tours are offered for the opera of Mozart at Angkor with Cambodia-based inbound tour-operator All Dreams Cambodia.