Two years ago, Somtow Sucharitkul’s “Opera about the Buddha,” THE SILENT PRINCE, premiered in Houston to packed houses and world-wide critical acclaim.   It was the first time an opera by a Thai had a world premiere in a major world operatic capital.


Thai audiences have had to wait some time to see this masterwork by Thailand’s most renowned living composer, but a new production will have a special preview on December 5 this year to honour the birthday of His Majesty the King.  This special, invitation-only gala will be the only performance this year.  Those who miss it will have to wait until Visakha Buja, June 2013, when regular public performances will commence at the Thailand Cultural Center under the auspices of the Department of Cultural Promotion.


THE SILENT PRINCE tells the story of Prince Temiya, a former incarnation of the Lord Buddha, who must choose between obedience to his father and taking a human life.  Unable to make a decision, he retreats into silence broken only at the very end of the story, when he is compelled to reveal his identity as the Boddhisatva.


Set in Benares in legendary times, THE SILENT PRINCE weaves a rich, sensuous visual and aural tapestry of color and sound.  There are scenes set in Heaven and Hell as well as on earth.  Gods and goddess appear by magic, and angels bring the baby Boddhisatva down from the sky, spirits from hell haunt Temiya as he remembers his past lives.


One of the greatest challenges of THE SILENT PRINCE was creating an opera in which the main character does not sing until the last five minutes.  “I had to make sure this was a major surprise and that the audience would jump out of their skins when the Lord Buddha finally speaks,” said Maestro Somtow, Thailand’s first Silpathorn Kittikhun Artist.  “So I wrote the part for the rarest possible male voice - that of a male soprano.”  Fortunately, Thailand has a male soprano - Jak Cholvijarn - who is also a scholar of Buddhism.  There are only a few such voices in the world.


An international cast from four continents plus some of Thailand’s most famous opera singers star in this production which also features a large chorus and an orchestra of top soloists, conducted by Thailand’s most well-known young conductor, Trisdee na Patalung.  The maestro himself will direct the production with designs by award-winning international artist Dean Shibuya, who recently designed “Reya - The Musical”.   About one hundred performers will be involved, including dancers, singers, and musicians. 


Other cast members include Nadlada Thamtanakom, perhaps Thailand’s most well known international soprano, whose career has led her to perform in opera houses throughout Europe, Grace Echauri, famous as “Carmen” but now performing the role of Chadra Devi, Queen of Benares, and Kyu Won Han who is known in Thailand for the role of Maak in Somtow’s opera “Mae Naak” which he has performed in London as well as Thailand.  Thrilling bass John Ames also appears as the god Indra - something of a raise in status since the last time he was in Thailand, he portrayed the evil demon king Ravana.


THE SILENT PRINCE presents its Buddhist message in a melodious and accessible way and is a powerful vehicle for opening up the culture of Thailand to the world.  


"Somtow Sucharitkul's sumptuous and marvellously lyrical score is enchanting," the Houston Chronicle's reviewer wrote, noting the use of traditional Indian instruments in the orchestra - tamburas, celeste and harmonium.  He called the show "moving and intriguing" and said it "always retains a deep sense of mystery and spirituality. His rich and beautiful orchestrations are masterful, meaningful and mesmerising."


"Sucharitkul disperses a misconception that contemporary opera is esoteric and impertinent," Joel Luks commented on the website CultureMap.


Seats for the special gala preview will not be sold, but invitations will be available as long as seats remain.  To receive an invitation, please call (02) 231-5273 and ask for Khun Ratana, or send an email to  In the email, please state (a) Your name (b) Your email (c) Phone number and (d) how many tickets you would like to receive.  Please bear in mind that the most recent premiere of a work by Somtow Sucharitkul, the “Requiem for the Mother of Songs” had more than 8,000 requests for only 3,600 seats on two evenings, so please get your request in as early as possible.


Bangkok Premiere • Dec 5, 2012
Thailand Cultural Center 8 pm


02 231-5273