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Unique Rock Opera To Debut This Month

“Where Elephants Weep,” a rock opera blend of Western and Cambodian performing arts, will begin a 10-day run in Phnom Penh later this month, organizers said Tuesday.

More than 60 Actors, dancers, singers and musicians from Cambodia will join American performers for the show, the first of its kind in Cambodia.

“Where Elephants Weep” is the story of a Cambodian-American named Sam, who returns to Cambodia to become a monk. He meets Bopha, a well-known singer, at the pagoda where he stays. Sam defies a chief monk and leaves the pagoda and religious life, and a story of love and tragedy begins.

The story was written by Catherine Filloux and is a modern adaptation of the traditional Khmer folk story “Tum Teav.”

The music was composed by Him Sophy, who was trained in Russia and who worked in New York for a year with producer John Burt. The show played in Lowell, Mass., in April 2007, and Burt called it “a dream” to bring the show to Cambodia.

“Cambodian survivors have given me a lot of inspiration,” Filloux told reporters Tuesday. “When I was given an opportunity to write an opera with Him Sophy, it really seemed like an accumulation of everything that I had done so far.”

The show will run Nov. 28. and Dec. 7, and organizers hope it will play in other countries across Asia before they return to the US.

“We trained together with foreign actors and I was very impressed from the first,” said Ieng Sithul, a Cambodian performer who plays the stringed “chapei” and is a flute coach for the show.

Thai Norak Satya, secretary of state for the Ministry of Culture, welcomed the presentation of a “mixed” show.

“We can consider that the show of multi-nationalism is an event that has never been in Phnom Penh,” he said.

Filloux said the story was ultimately about Cambodia.

“The place where elephants go to cry in the story represents some level of the soul of Cambodia,” she said.