After ten years in development, excerpts from the new musical “Winds of Angkor” by British composer Sarah O’Brien have been made released for the first time. Songs and behind-the-scenes footage can be previewed at http://www.facebook.com/l/08aed;www.youtube.com/windsofangkor
“Winds of Angkor” is set in contemporary Cambodia, with flashbacks to the Khmer Rouge regime of the late 1970s. The story chronicles a forbidden love affair between prisoners of the Khmer Rouge, and its impact on a Western journalist who falls in love with a survivor of the regime. Jean-Baptiste Phou and Amara Chhin-Lawrence are the first Cambodian artists to play leading roles in a Western musical that also features Jessica Pennington, award-winning Los Angeles based actress. Jean-Baptiste and Amara play the spirits of ‘Chan’ and ‘Sopheap’ a young couple accused of spying for the CIA who were interrogated and tortured at Phnom Penh’s notorious secret prison at Tuol Sleng, before being executed at Cambodia’s Killing Fields. The discovery of the prisoners’ letters motivates Western journalist ‘Alex Morgan’ aided by survivor ‘Mai Ambault’ to investigate the truth behind their fate and find new meaning in the aftermath of Cambodia’s genocide. The ancient temples of Angkor provide a spectacular backdrop for this double love story that carries an uplifting message of hope to those affected by conflict throughout the world today.
Fragments of the actual letters exchanged between the prisoners were discovered in Tuol Sleng (S-21) archives and became the inspiration for the musical after they were featured in a British newspaper in the late 1990s. Over the next ten years Sarah O’Brien visited Cambodia several times to research the piece. She met with survivors of the regime, and visited places depicted in the story including the notorious secret prison and the Killing Fields outside Phnom Penh. The
British Ambassador to Cambodia lent his support to the show as did members of the Cambodian Royal Family and various officials. When the piece was considered ‘too controversial’ by judges of the Vivienne Ellis Prize, Sir Tim Rice intervened, declaring the musical “an extremely dynamic and professional work.”
Composer/cellist Sarah O’Brien trained at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama (1987 – 91), and received her Master’s at City University before being awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue Advanced Studies at the University of Southern California. During this time she was selected by Yanni for extensive touring and televised concerts at India’s Taj Mahal and China’s Forbidden City. On graduation Sarah made a name for herself in Hollywood’s recording studios and is credited on numerous TV, film soundtracks and albums. Sarah has been working closely with members of the Cambodian community of Long Beach, California (the second largest Cambodian community outside of Cambodia), especially dance students of the ‘Spirit of Khmer Angkor’ school and musicians of the ‘Ho Chan Ensemble’. The symphonic score for ‘Winds of Angkor’ features both contemporary and traditional elements.
Plans to stage a full production in Cambodia and major cities internationally are currently under discussion. Profits will benefit ongoing recovery efforts in Cambodia and Cambodian communities around the world. “Winds of Angkor” is currently supported by STEAM Int’l Inc – (Service through Entertainment, Art & Music) – a 501 (3)(c) non-profit production company.
For more information and to get involved, please contact:
The official website: http://www.windsofangkor.com/
*** This article was sent to us by our dear friend and ATO supporter Florence Yoo.