Suwana Sama – The Faithful Son, a new opera in Somtow Sucharitkul’s series “Das Jati – Ten Lives of the Buddha,” will be performed for the first time on December 5 at the Suryadhep Music Sala in Rangsit, Thailand.
His work is based on the third of the iconic ten jataka tales, parables about the previous lives of the Buddha which decorate the walls of temples all over Southeast Asia and which are object moral lessons in Buddhist philosophy.
This is actually the fourth opera he has written in the series — “We had a bit of a Star Wars problem in that the idea of creating all ten did not come until I was already well into the Bhuridat, which is technically No. 6 of the ten lives,” Somtow explains.
He is also pleased to point to the scoreboard, which shows his series now contains as many operas as one by another historic composer. “Wagner’s Ring Cycle contains four operas. Now that the DasJati cycle also contains four operas, we’ve reached at least a kind of numeric parity. But of course, The Ring is 16 hours long … the entire DasJati cycle won’t be more than about 18,” he adds, “because it’s designed for modern audiences with movie-length attention spans.” When the entire cycle debuts in 2020, he says, “It’ll feel about like watching all the Star Wars one after another.”
Somtow points out that it is the most intimate and idyllic of the ten tales. In it, the Bodhisattva grows up in a forest looking after his ascetic parents, dedicating his entire life to their welfare after they are struck blind by an angry serpent. A passing king who wants to capture the golden-skinned youth for his collection kills the boy with a poison dart, but his filial piety is so powerful that his parents’ tears bring him back to life.
This is a magical story with legendary creatures, gods, a giant snake, a virgin birth, a madcap king, and a statue that comes to life.
Incidentally, here’s a link to the full video of Somtow’s The Snow Dragon, premiered last March in Milwaukee.
[Based on the press release. Thanks to Brian Z. for the story.]