The production that astounded audiences in Phnom Penh in 2018 continues its flight towards the fully-fledged spectacle anticipated for the majestic and mysterious setting of the Chau Say Tevoda Temple at the Angkor Archeological Park. The narrative grandeur of Cambodia’s epic poem the Reamker is woven into Mozart’s most popular and endearing opera, the Magic Flute. In a journey from darkness to light, of self-discovery and the triumph of good over evil, Tamino and Pamina find their alter egos in Prince Preah Ream (Rama) and Queen Neang Seda (Sita) as they search for truth, liberty, justice and love. Their path towards enlightenment, accompanied by Papageno is met with a host of birds and animals, the dastardly Monostatos comes with a horde of cheeky flea-ridden monkey dancers and the operatic highpoint of the Queen of the Night’s arias enthral with the accompaniment of Khmer classical dance in all its power and grace.
The unprecedented and spectacular tropical forest setting in all its mystery and luxuriant vigour is the location for an opera the world has never seen, complete with a full Cambodian traditional instrumental ensemble, a Mozartian orchestra, an international cast of singers and UNESCO’s listed Intangible Cultural Heritage treasures of the Khmer Classical Dance, Sbek Thom, Lkhon Khol and Chapei Dang Veng.
Robert Turnbull spent two decades raising the profile of the arts in Cambodia. He personally supported musicians studying abroad and wrote numerous articles in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Opera Now, Daily Telegraph and many other publications in Europe and the UK. Aside from being a journalist, Robert worked as a pianist in the operatic world, helping him to gain an understanding of the complexity of performance. In 2012 he created En Blanc et Noir, a festival focused on young pianists in the Corbières Mountains in France.
In 2018 Robert fell ill with cancer and despite intensive medical care, succumbed to its aggressive advancement on Christmas Day that same year.
The Mozart at Angkor – A Cambodian Magic Flute project continues to move forward, thanks to the generous bequest left by Robert in his last will, and to the wishes of Robert’s circle of friends who want to keep alive his visionary desire to cultivate the performing arts for the betterment of humanity.
When Robert Turnbull arrived in Cambodia in the late 1990s, much of his effort was focused on the traditional performing arts and the people who practised them at a time when they were a clear priority. He also noticed that there were a handful of classically trained musicians who had studied in Russia and returned to Cambodia where there were, however, few opportunities to perform. Turnbull conceived the idea of performing a local production of The Magic Flute as a way not only of introducing Cambodia to opera, but also to create opportunities for indigenous performing artists.
“I was aware that there were some quite talented musicians,” he told The Cambodia Daily in February 2015. “But essentially they have very few opportunities to perform, and that’s something which has been bothering me for a long time.”
In 2014, Turnbull, together with musical director Aaron Carpene and stage director Stefano Vizioli who had been invited to join the project in 2013, began a series of annual workshops and performances. The aim was to bring together international artists from the world of opera with Cambodia’s own local talents in a process designed to forge cultural dialogue and exchange between Western and Cambodian arts. The former Amrita Performing Arts Dance Ensemble, co-founded by Fred Frumberg, became a stable partner in these workshops and led to a guest appearance at the 2017 Sanxay Summer Opera Festival in France of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, directed by Vizioli, and a staged abbreviated performance of Mozart at Angkor in March 2018 at Chaktomuk Hall in Phnom Penh.
After the unfortunate passing of Turnbull, the project pushed forward, announcing an audience with King Norodom Sihamoni on July 29, 2019. Shortly after, a set of full performances was announced to take place in late-February 2020, chosen to run in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the founding of the APSARA National Authority. The tight timeline, however, did not allow sufficient time for official requirements to occur and a new series of dates was announced for November 2020.
Aaron Carpenè, conductor, harpsichordist, organist, pianist and early music specialist, has forged a unique path in today’s music performance panorama. The combination of a profound knowledge and performance experience in 17th and 18th century European music and the desire to interact with some of the world’s great and unique performing arts traditions has led to the creation of the pioneering projects Opera Bhutan, a critically acclaimed intercultural operatic performance of G. F. Handel’s Acis and Galatea in the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan that incorporated traditional Bhutanese music, dance and costume and Japan Orfeo, an integration of Monteverdi’s first operatic masterpiece and Noh Theatre, Nihon Buyo and Gagaku music. For Spoleto Festival USA 2015 Carpenè created the performance score and conducted the first production in modern times of Francesco Cavalli’s opera Veremonda, l’Amazzone d’Aragona. He is currently working on an innovative intercultural opera project in Western Australia with the Yamaji Indigenous people.
Born in Perth, Australia, Aaron Carpenè studied at the University of Western Australia and the Conservatory of Music of Venice. In Italy he continued studies in early keyboard technique with the English master Christopher Stembridge, specializing in the repertory for harpsichord and organ in Italy in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. He became musical assistant to Alan Curtis, completing his formation in the areas of vocal music, vocal and orchestral accompaniment and conducting.
Carpenè combines the discipline of philological research with publications, recordings and performance, in projects that begin with the rare manuscript and end on the concert stage, in print or on record. He is active as conductor, soloist and ensemble member. Recent research and performance projects include Handel’s Acis and Galatea with the Akademie für Alte Musik from Berlin as conductor, with director Stefano Vizioli (Macau International Music Festival 2011); Handel’s Imeneo for Festival Baroque Australia (2011); Sigismund Neukomm and F. J. Haydn for the Haydn Festival in Eisenstadt 2011; Alessandro Scarlatti’s Il Trionfo dell’Onore, the Stabat mater and the Concerti Sacri Opera Seconda for International Sacred Music Festival of Oslo; Baldassare Galuppi’s sacred motets Confitebor tibi Domine and A rupe ad vallem; Niccolò Jommelli’s intermezzo L’Uccellatrice; the world-premiere recording of Giuseppe Sigismondo’s intermezzo La prosuntuosa delusa; the Italian keyboard works from the Jagiellonian Library of Krakow; and Giovanni Bononcini’s Cantatas for solo voice, instruments and basso continuo.
As musical assistant and maestro al cembalo to Alan Curtis, Carpenè has performed in the recordings and theater productions of Fernando, Re di Castiglia (Virgin Records, Teatro di São Carlos, Lisbon) by G. F. Handel, Motezuma (Deutsche Gramophon, European tour) by A. Vivaldi, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria (Oslo) by C. Monteverdi, and Artaserse (Harmonia mundi K617, Barcelona) by D. Terradellas. Carpenè performs extensively in Europe and abroad as a soloist keyboard interpreter of early music. He has recorded the world premier recording of the keyboard works by Paolo Quagliati for Tactus records. As musical editor he has published the critical edition of the complete organ magnificats by Hans Leo Hassler for the Istituto dell’Organo Storico Italiano.
He is frequently invited to hold specialist masterclasses in Early Performance Practice and has a special interest in the Middle and Far East as artist-in-residence at the Conservatory of Music in Damascus and the Academy of Performing Arts in Hong Kong.
An internationally recognized director of opera, Stefano Vizioli has staged new productions at major international theatres and opera houses including La Scala in Milan, New National Theatre in Tokyo, Lyric Opera in Chicago, La Fenice in Venice, National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, Colon in Buenos Aires, Champs Elisées in Paris, Capitôle in Toulouse, Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik. He has collaborated with conductors including Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti, Daniele Gatti, Ottavio Dantone, Alan Curtis, Jesús López Cobos, Leonard Slatkin, Michele Mariotti, Vladimir Jurowsky.
Since 2016 he has been the Artistic Director of the Teatro Verdi in Pisa, Italy. His artistic direction has been distinguished by his intrepidity that has been embraced and celebrated by audiences and critics alike. Alongside well-known operas, he has presented more unusual operas including Pia de’ Tolomei by Donizetti, Il Girello and L’Empio punito by Melani, Napoli Milionaria by Nino Rota, L’Edipo Re by Ruggero Leoncavallo and The Beggar’s Opera by John Gay. Under his direction, subscription numbers have increased by almost 16%, comprised of mainly under 30-year-olds.
Collaborating with outstanding artists and designers, and promoting emerging talent, he takes a special interest in contemporary opera, unknown baroque masterpieces and creating opera projects for wider audiences. He directed the first Italian performances of May Night by Rimsky Korsakov, The Devil and Daniel Webster by Douglas Moore and Casanova’s Homecoming by Dominick Argento. He has directed the revival of Veremonda by Francesco Cavalli at the Spoleto Charleston Festival in 2015, with sets and costumes by pop artist Ugo Nespolo.
Examples of his work on DVD include: Don Pasquale by Donizetti, Scala di Milano, conducted by Riccardo Muti; Don Pasquale Teatro di Cagliari, conducted by Gerard Kostner; Motezuma by Vivaldi, conducted by Alan Curtis; I due Figaro by Carafa, conducted by Brad Cohen; Barbiere di Siviglia by Rossini, conducted by Andrea Battistoni; Madama Butterfly conducted by Larry Gilgore; Luisa Miller by Verdi conducted by Michael Güttler; Il Trovatore by Verdi conducted by Paolo Arrivabeni; Rigoletto by Verdi conducted by Massimo Zanetti, La Dori by Cesti conducted by Ottavio Dantone (to be released) while many productions have been broadcast by Italian and foreign television.
He was one of the creators of Opera Bhutan, a production of Acis and Galatea by Handel in the heart of the Himalayas. He went on to create a second cross-cultural operatic project, Japan Orfeo, for the 150th anniversary of bilateral relations between Italy and Japan, which was realised in October 2016, filmed by NHK Television and was honoured by the presence of H.R.H Empress Michiko. Both productions are part of operaESTrema, a series of cross-cultural opera events that brings together some of the world’s most distinctive cultures www.operaestrema.com
Renowned contemporary artists and architects have collaborated with Vizioli in realizing sets and costumes: Aldo Rossi (Madama Butterfly), Luigi Veronesi (Midsummer Night’s Dream), Ugo Nespolo (Madama Butterfly, Elisir d’amore, Veremonda, L’Italiana in Algeri), Gianni Dessì (il Cordovano), and Renato Guttuso (Cavalleria Rusticana).
He has been Visiting Professor at the Cincinnati University of Music for the Opera Theatre, the Music Festival of Lucca, the Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington and the University of Texas. He has collaborated with the University of Rome “la Sapienza”, the University of Pisa and the Fondazione Cini in Venice.
Stefano Vizioli holds a degree in piano from the Conservatorio of Music San Pietro a Majella in Naples and has produced radio and television programs dealing with the world of opera. He was artistic advisor at the Accademia Filarmonica Romana obtaining the status of Academic in 1995.
Among the many activities dedicated to social work, Vizioli directed the opera Amahl and the night visitors by Menotti in the Pagliarelli prison of Palermo, Sicily.
Nam Narim comes from a long family line of esteemed Cambodian classical dancers. Narim began her classical training at the age of nine. She completed the Secondary School of Fine Arts in 2000 and received her BA in Choreographic Arts from the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh in 2004. She continued her studies at the Korean National University of Arts where she graduated in 2009 with a Master’s degree in Choreography.
She is currently a member of the Cambodian National Theatre troupe, Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. Narim has performed in a number of new works of contemporary dance with Amrita Performing Arts and was a featured dancer in Stravinsky’s Persephone directed by Peter Sellars at the Teatro Real in Madrid, Spain. Narim was a featured dancer in CRACK – a new work of Cambodian contemporary dance by German choreographer Arco Renz that was awarded the 2012 ZKB Patronage Prize in Zurich Switzerland in September 2012. Recently, Narim has been selected to participate in the 2013 Young Choreographers Project in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
Nevio is an Italian freelance light designer and production manager. He teaches Light Design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice. His international collaborations include the Teatro Dante Alighieri Ravenna, Fondazione Arturo Toscanini Parma, Teatro A. Ponchielli Cremona, CNA Corea – Teatro Regio di Parma, Teatro Pavarotti di Modena, Teatro delle Muse Ancona, Teatro Comunale di Ferrara, Teatro Sao Carlos Lisbona, Teatro Regio -Teatro Stabile Torino, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Teatro Arriaga Bilbao, Macao international music festival, Opera Sanxay.
Important theatre and festival events include Silos Armani Milano collezione permanente, Louis Vuitton settimana del Design Milano 2018, Luca Ronconi, Teatro Stabile Verona Misura per Misura, Tokyo millenario – Kobe Luminarie Giappone, Conferenza ITCN Nagoya Giappone, Festival di Babilonia 1994 Iraq, Olimpiadi del Teatro 2001 Mosca, Festival dos Oceanos Lisbona.
Kethya started her classical dance training at the age of five. As one of Cambodia’s outstanding classical dancers, Kethya has performed nationally and internationally with the Cambodian Royal Ballet Troupe. Kethya has worked under some of the world’s leading contemporary choreographers at World Dance Alliance (WDA) choreographic labs in Brisbane, Hong Kong and New Delhi and has been a featured dancer in works by Emmanuèle Phuon, Peter Chin, Arco Renz and others that have toured extensively throughout Europe, the United States and Asia. Kethya became the Artistic Director of Amrita Performing Arts in 2014 and teaches dance at the Secondary School of Fine Arts.
Friends of Mozart at Angkor
Dr. Helen Jarvis
Sharon & David Wilkinson
Henk de Jong
The 12th-century Chau Say Tevoda Temple at Angkor is the ideal location: the ancient temples are a living testimony to the music, song and dance that are a striking feature of Cambodian culture, embodied in its historical and social identity.
The restoration project carried out from 2000 and 2009 under a joint project between the China Cultural Relics Research Institute and APSARA, an example of the wide-ranging international cultural collaboration at Angkor that we honour and humbly carry forward in our project.
“While renewing my deep appreciation for your invitation and my best wishes for the complete success of the premiere performance by Mozart at Angkor of a Cambodian Magic Flute, I am pleased to inform you that I will preside over the repositioned performance at the end of November 2020.”
– His Majesty Norodom Sihamoni, the King of Cambodia