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Cambodia's First Rock Opera Opens in November

Where elephants weepThe Associated Press reports that Where Elephants Weep, Cambodia's first rock opera, will premiere in Phnom Penh next month.

Where Elephants Weep is an East-meets-West blend of traditional Cambodian music and Western rock that is modeled after Romeo and Juliet and inspired by the Broadway musical Rent. This is a cultural milestone in the Southeast Asian country where performing arts were banned during the brutal Khmer Rouge years (arts and entertainment were banned when the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia between 1975-79 and killed some 1.7 million people through starvation, disease, overwork and execution, according to the report).

From "Cambodia's first rock opera opens next month":

Where elephants weep 1Where Elephants Weep is an operatic take on Tum Teav, the Cambodian version of Romeo and Juliet.

It tells the story a Cambodian-American who lost his father during the Khmer Rouge era and returns home after Cambodia's civil war to trace his roots. In Phnom Penh, he meets and falls in love with a Cambodian woman who works as a karaoke singer.

The music was composed by the Russian-trained Cambodian maestro Him Sophy. He was inspired by the musical genre of the rock opera Rent, which he saw twice during a trip to New York City.

Cambodian musicians in the performance use electric guitars, electronic drums, keyboards and traditional instruments like buffalo horns, bamboo flutes, gongs and the chapei, a long-neck lute with two nylon strings.

Where Elephants Weep opens Nov. 28 for a 10-day run in a converted movie theater in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. It is expected to eventually tour in other countries, including the United States, South Korea, and Singapore.

-- Daniel Lehman

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