Report from Bangkok to the international wagner society
The Richard Wagner Circle Bangkok was inaugurated with a considerable amount of hoopla in Bangkok 13 years ago. Wolfgang and Gudrun Wagner came with a whole party from Germany, and HRH Princess Galyani of Thailand presided over the opening concert. As befit such a royal occasion, the anthems of Thailand and Bavaria were played, the latter much to the Wagners’ delight.
Since that time activity has sometimes been slow, at other times frantic. The RWCB sponsored the first productions of Rheingold and Walküre in the Southeast Asian peninsula, but the Ring cycle slowed down because something kept happening to our prospective Siegfried … each time we hired a new one, another unprecedented disaster would occur.
After the Wagner Conference in Leipzig and the big celebrations, we decided it would be time to try to finish our Ring cycle. In 2004-6 orchestral playing was at a lower level than in 2013. I found what seemed to be a perfect Siegfried, but shortly before the premiere, he contacted me to ask if it could be changed to a concertante performance, because he didn’t think he’d have the entire part memorized in time.
I was forced to save the situation by doing something one cannot do it a more organized and by-the-book opera community such as you would find in Europe. I checked through the resumes of all the singers who were committed to do Siegfried with us, and discovered that all had Holländer in their repertoire. I cooked up a new concept overnight, setting the opera in a kelong which is a remote fishing platform such as you might find in parts of Malaysia or Indonesia. The contemporary yet remote setting made interesting things possible - Daland’s willingness to sell his daughter would be culturally normal in such a society, and one could also weave in a subtext about human trafficking. The Holländer was well received and renewed our feeling that we must one day achieve the first Ring in the region.
We were visited by the orchestra representative from Bayreuth, Daniel Draganov, who saw our youth orchestra in action and this led to an interesting long-term relationship with Bayreuth - both the Festspielhaus orchestra and the Young Artists’ Festival in Bayreuth which occurs concurrently with the main festival. As a result, members of the Bayreuth orchestra have been coming down once a year to work on a “Wagner camp” with our young musicians, resulting in the first all-Wagner concert in 2014 and in 2015 a very exciting “Ring in 90 minutes” concert. The Siam Sinfonietta, our youth orchestra which has won a number of significant awards, including first prize at the Summa Cum Laude competition in the Musikverein in Vienna, was invited to the youth festival in Bayreuth and played eleven concerts in Bavaria and elsewhere. Among the works performed were music from Die Feen and the Wesendonck Lieder. I and our resident conductor Trisdee na Patalung had an enjoyable meeting with Katharina Wagner. The visit to Bayreuth was so successful that they have been invited back in 2016 and will do the European premiere of my opera The Silent Prince in Bayreuth. It is hoped we will see many fellow members of the Wagner Society while we are in Bayreuth.
Meanwhile it is sad to report that my Wagner Soceity chairman, Jim Rooney, died unexpectedly in 2015, before achieving his lifelong wish of seeing The Ring in Bayreuth. This year, we are using part of our ticket allotment to send his wife to Bayreuth.
The relationship with the Bayreuth festival will doubtless continue and we are now hoping that the Ring Cycle will finally be back on track soon.