In my first few months living here, I drew the conclusion that Khrungthep did not have much of an arts scene. Now with nearly a year’s experience, I have erased and redrawn a different conclusion: there is a notable arts scene, although it is less supported and accessible to locals than it could be.
One of the showcase events is the month-long Bangkok International Festival of Dance and Music, now in its eighth year. This year in celebration of the King’s 60th Anniversary on the Throne, part of the festival was held in June. There are a few dozen different events, five of which we will attend:
Date: Sat 9 and Sun 10 September, 2006
Performed by: Belarussian National Ballet Theatre
Composer: Pyotr Tchaikovsky
Conductor: Vyacheslav Volich
Choreographer: Valentin Elizariev
“This two-act ballet based on the music of Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky, is a favourite with both adults and children. The central character, a little girl, is given a nutcracker by her godfather for Christmas. The child falls asleep and dreams that she defends it against the King of Mice. The nutcracker then changes into a handsome prince who takes her on a fabulous journey.
This production of the Nutcracker was staged by the Belarussian National Ballet Theatre. The ballet was produced by the company in 1982 and was declared the best ballet in USSR that year. The performance was accompanied by a full symphony orchestra conducted by Viacheslav Cherncho.”
We arrived for our first in a series of events at this year’s Bangkok International Festival of Dance and Music, excited to see a full audience composed of an unusually high number of Thais and – particularly impressive – ten to fifteen percent of them were children! Mostly young girls, along with some boys, I was very happy that the event was not only receiving more support from the local population but that they are exposing their children to the performing arts.
Without a doubt, the girls were all ballet students: some were dressed up in outfits perhaps chosen for their “princess and fairy tale” theme; others pirouetted and jetéed about.
Also adding to the evening’s excitement was the presence of Her Royal Highness, Princess Galyani Vadhana Krom Luang Naradhiwas Rajnagarindra. The Princess, the King’s older sister, is in her early eighties and has long been the designated patron of the classical arts. A box was set aside for her at the front-center of the first balcony, a lovely chair with a side table and individual trash can placed a lonely distance away from everyone else on a red-carpetted, raised dais.
Shortly before the performance commenced, the audience stood and the Princess’ royal anthem was played. She was escorted in and at the conclusion of the anthem, was seated. At the conlcusion of the show – although not also at the interval as I had expected – the King’s anthem was played, followed by the Princess’ as she made her way out of the building.
And the show, the show, the show… it was really fantastic. The Belarussian National Ballet and the Belarus Opera Symphony Orchestra are both world-class. The choreography was beautifully creative and the audience was enraptured, most of all the young boys and girls in attendance.
We look forward to the continuation of the series this Wednesday.
Date: Tue 12 and Wed 13 September, 2006
Performed by: National Opera House of Belarus
Inaki Urlezaga Tango Group, Argentina
Date: Friday 29 September, 2006
Ramayana by Kalakshetra Theatre, India
Date: Sun 1 October, 2006
Date: Fri 6 and Sat 7 October, 2006
Performed By: Aida Gomez Flamenco Ballet, Spain