As one of a handful of professional photographers in Siem Reap, I get my teeth into a surprisingly varied range of assignments for such a small town. Never before, however, has an evening of opera landed in my inbox.
That probably comes as little surprise; when you think of the world’s great operatic cities, it will invariably be images of Milan, Paris, Vienna, or perhaps Sydney that spring to mind, not tiny Siem Reap. And with good reason, for no production of a Western classical opera has ever been staged in Cambodia.
I find it almost impossible to turn down an opportunity to photograph just about any form of live music; that sense of excitement as the lights dim and the audience beams with anticipation has never waned since I first photographed the Fringe Festival to TIMF in Tongyeong, South Korea back in 2014. Imagine my delight, then, at an invitation to capture some of the precious moments in the build-up to something so truly groundbreaking.
For things are set to change in this developing ASEAN nation; in December 2018, one of the planet’s hottest travel destinations (sometimes quite literally), home to the incredible lost city of Angkor, will play host to a watershed adaptation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” The setting is destined to be nothing short of spectacular; while there are no opera houses here to rival La Scala or Sydney, “The Cambodian Magic Flute” will be performed open-air within the lost city itself, in an 11th century temple lurking just outside Angkor Thom, no less. Take that, Milan.
Cast as Papageno in the much-anticipated adaptation at Angkor, highly-acclaimed baritone Martin Ng whet our whistle this April in an exciting taster production organised by producer and long-term Cambodia resident, Robert Turnbull. With the beautiful Navutu Dreams Resort & Welness Retreat playing host to an evening of unamplified music with Phnom Penh’s Natalya Khon on piano, I was invited along to photograph the event that gave Siem Reap its first taste of what’s to come in an exciting musical future.
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