Vol. VII No. 34 - Tuesday
August 19 - August 25, 2008

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by Saichon Paewsoongnern

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

A glamorous night commemorates HRH Prince Rapee Pattanasak, the father of modern Thai law

Friendship without Borders - Zonta’s Charity Benefit Gala

Chiang Mai Celebrates Mothers Day

Munich – A celebration of opera and music


A glamorous night commemorates HRH Prince Rapee Pattanasak, the father of modern Thai law

Pictured are the organisers of the gala,
one of the most glamorous nights of the year.

Palapol Polkongseng singing from the dance floor.

Every year, the Kromluang Ratchaburidirekrit Foundation Committee organizes a number of events in tribute to the late HRH Kromluang Ratchaburidirekrit Prince Rapee Pattanasak for his great contribution to the establishment of a strong and secure status for modern Thai law. On August 7, Prince Rapee Day itself, a huge Gala at the Empress Hotel’s Convention Centre celebrated the work and life of this extraordinary man.
Over 700 people, from the judiciary, the police and the general public, gathered for the evening, dressed in their most glamorous frocks and smart suits. The event included dance performances from the Chiang Mai Ballet Academy, the Dance Zone and a fashion show featuring Chiang Mai’s top designers such as Kuntalee Rapipong from Jolie Femme, (also the vice-chairman of Chiang Mai Cultural Council), Tananan Willson from Tananan Willson Haute Couture, Sumate Pankaew from Classic Model, Worakorn Wongwithkarn from Fai Ngam, Apinporn Kiratipoomtham from Yodaya and Montri Kanhapakorn with Manachai Triross from Maross. Celebrity models included Dr. George Sioris, the former Greek Ambassador with his wife Dararat, Sirine Baude, Ongkarn Chaiongkarn, Rachan Veeraphan, the honorary consul of Bangladesh, and HRH Prince Rapee Pattanasak’s three great-grandsons and daughter, Akkapak, Warakorn, Rawipa and Rabibhad Asavaraksh.
Mayuree Jamigranont, chief of judges Region 5 and president of the foundation, with Komkrit Wanapiboon, chief of the Juvenile and Family Court and chairman of the Rapee Dinner Party Organising Committee and the foundation committee, presented bouquets of flowers and commemorative plaques to the designers, in acknowledgement of their valuable contribution to the event.
The Empress Hotel served a delicious Chinese meal, whilst the 33rd Regimental Band played both Thai and Western music. Palapol Polkongseng, a famous Thai singer flown in from Bangkok especially for the occasion, had the young ladies screaming with excitement, and filled the dance floor with revellers of all ages - definitely one of the most popular performances of the evening.
Following Palapol’s concert, two round-trip Chiang Mai-Bangkok tickets, donated by Bangkok Airways, were drawn for two lucky winners by Yong Surainrungsikul, the president of the Appeal Court, followed by a Latin Dance Show given by the Chiang Mai Ballet Academy. Afterwards, the dance floor was packed yet again by the crowds, and the party went on until midnight.
One of the organisers, Mom Luang Preeyapun Sridhavat, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Peru, an associate judge at the Juvenile and Family Court and a committee member of the foundation, explained that the foundation supports and distributes education in law and research to people in Northern Thailand. It also provides scholarships for students in Northern colleges and universities, who lack the necessary funds but achieve good academic results, and promotes and conserves Lanna art and culture. The foundation is not involved or related to any political parties.
If you are arranging an event, why not invite [email protected] to drop by for a few photographs.


Friendship without Borders - Zonta’s Charity Benefit Gala

Fashion Shows are fashionable…

Three of the grandmothers and their grandchildren are introduced to guests.

On August 9, Zonta International Chiang Mai held a Charity Benefit Gala entitled ‘Friendship without Borders’ in aid of their Grandma Orphan Care Project. Held at the Centara Duangtawan Hotel, the event was sponsored and organised at short notice by La Gondola.

Anchalee Kalmapijit pictured with some of the models showing the clothes from the Maetamam Elephant Camp.
Guests of honour included Chao Duangdeun na Chiengmai and the honorary French Consul Thomas Baude, with his wife Chamaiphan. After an excellent buffet, guests were introduced to three of the “grandmas” with their granddaughters and were told a little of the history of Zonta. 10 years ago Zonta International Chiang Mai was formed to help the 100 or so local women of Chiang Mai who had contracted HIV and AIDS, most of whom contracted the disease through their husbands. They were unable to work and often stigmatised against as drugs and help were not readily available in those days. Since then all of the women have passed away and their children have been left, in the care of their grandmothers. These grandmothers are too old to work, and have to support themselves and their ‘new charges’. Under the Zonta Grandma Orphan Care Project, people can adopt a grandma for as little as 300 baht a month.
Afterwards, guests were delighted to be entertained by dances from the children, both traditional Thai and modern. This was followed by a fashion show, kindly on loan from Anchalee Kalmapijit, depicting clothes from the Maetaman Elephant Camp. Elegant female and male models strutted the catwalk, showing off beautiful silks and designs painted by the elephants and created by local dress designers. Anchalee explained that this is a perfect example of elephants and humans working together producing something beautiful, whilst contributing to research into elephant care and an artificial insemination project. Subsequently, paintings donated by the elephant camp were auctioned.
When asked why he had sponsored the event, khun Jim from La Gondola replied, “When I learnt from Red Cross records that an estimate of almost a thousand of these grandmas are living all over Chiang Mai province, I became clear and focused on making a merit for these struggling elderly ‘moms’ on this Mother’s Day occasion. In a very short period, I managed to organise this event, with the hope that more people would be aware of these suffering souls. It’s hard enough for them to survive; yet, they try to stay alive for their grandchildren.”
A donation of 24,000 baht plus an adoption of a grandma for one year, (3,600 baht), was raised. All donations, with no costs deducted, will be handed over to Zonta on Mothers Day, August 12. If any organization or individual wishes to top up the donation, they may contact khun Jim on 081 289 5214 or contact Zonta’s treasurer Dr. Amphawan directly on 081 724 0572. An official receipt will be issued for every donation.

Chiang Mai Celebrates Mothers Day

Julie, Siree, Aran and Andrew (standing) with Michal and Kathryn (seated)
chose the Holiday Inn to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Pongkrit, Sittichoke, Chao Wongsak na Chiengmai and Chanida na
Chiengmai decided on the Pasta Cafe to celebrate Mothers Day.

Dr Lina, President of the Soroptimists (seated right),
celebrates her tweenteen birthday on the same day as Her Majesty the Queen
at the La Gritta, Amari Rincome hotel.

At the Empress on Mother’s Day, Ging, Gift, Jeff and Dao (l/r) enjoying their lunch.

Jaang, Ome, Eak and Jeab enjoying their Mothers Day at D2 Moxie Restaurant.

Richard, Kim and Kris (standing) with Steve, Janie and Leigh (seated)
at the China Palace for a very special lunch on Mothers Day.

The Leemasawat family decided to celebrate Mothers Day at the Imperial Mae Ping.

The Bushell and Roberts families at the Shangri La for their Mother’s Day Brunch.

Munich – A celebration of opera and music

Jean-Pierre Kirkland
When most people are asked what they know about Munich, the reply is often the Oktoberfest or Bierfest - a solid week of beer swilling and local sausage guzzling, renowned the world over as the largest of its kind. And of course, Munich does possess some of the finest beers in the world. It is also known for its football teams and sadly, for the tragedy of the deaths at the Olympics there in the 1970s, while many people still remember the air crash that wiped out many of Manchester United’s players some 50 years ago or so at the old airport.
However, Munich is also home to one of the great Opera Houses of Europe, left undamaged by the war and now refurbished in splendid condition. This year is also the 850th anniversary of the founding of the town, now an important city in southern Germany, and so a large number of special events are being held to celebrate that date. The most ambitious of these was the Opera Festival, stretching over nearly 6 weeks in June and July with 20 operas, 2 ballets and a large number of other musical events by members of the orchestra or singers, such as 3 chamber concerts, 2 open-air operas, 3 workshops and 5 lieder (song) recitals, as well as 2 Gala Concerts and other events.
One of the dangers for the more traditional operagoer these days, and especially in Germany, is the fact that eccentric directors and producers there have meddled so seriously with the composers’ and librettists’ original instructions and intentions, that the operas themselves are often visually incongruous and can be utterly ludicrous. Luckily, Munich is at the heart of conservative Germany where for the most part traditional values still mean something. The opera festival itself also had a strong focus on the works of Bavarian born composer Richard Strauss, himself a very traditional and conservative man who left the world a rich heritage of operas, most of which are regularly performed today. Strauss, no relation to the so called ‘waltz-king and family’, wrote many of his operas not far from Munich, in Garmisch, where, in the early 1900s, he built a wonderful villa from the proceeds of the highly successful Der Rosenkavalier and the extremely controversial Salome.
Thus it was very fitting that both of the above works featured amongst the operas performed during the festival. Der Rosenkavalier was staged, as it should be, in the world of aristocratic Vienna at the time of the empress Maria-Theresia. The opera was the first of six collaborations between Strauss and his librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal; the singing was excellent throughout and the audience burst into spontaneous applause at the glorious sets that opened Act 2; Angela Denoke excelled as the Feldmarschallin and John Tomlinson was a successfully decadent and sleazy Baron Ochs. Anke Vondung made a most handsome and presentable Octavian with a soaring quality to the voice that perfectly matched the slightly less forceful voice of Simone Nold as Sophie. The famous trio towards the end of Act 3 was pure magic with the three sopranos singing together in a manner that showed deep understanding and great love for this unique piece of operatic writing. Throughout this opera and others, the orchestra played in fine form - the rich texture of Strauss’ score being exploited to the full, while respecting the more lusciously tender moments so typical of the composer’s scoring (What a great pity that the two-volumed Thai textbooks on the ‘World’s Great Composers’ does not include a chapter on Strauss - a most serious omission!). Members of the audience to whom I spoke after the performance were united in their praise, several stating it was the best-ever production they had seen. After many visits to this opera in London, New York, Manchester, Paris and Vienna, I was happy to agree.
Salome was also staged but coupled with a modern opera, mercifully short, Das Gehege (The Cage). The renowned Gabriele Schnaut was required to screech and bawl a totally tuneless score for 30 minutes, while a non-singing bird creature, looking like a cross between an ostrich and a crow, initially caged, later strutted and fretted around the stage. The audience, judging by the muted and restrained applause, was not impressed. Nor was I. Salome was a very different proposition - staged in a minimalist setting but making excellent use of lighting, the erotic plot and subsequent decadent death scenes were played out in a gripping yet horrific way. The only sad and I must say stupid part was when the ridiculous bird thing from the previous opera made another unwarranted and superfluous appearance while Salome performed her celebrated and notorious Dance of the Seven Veils. Once again Angela Denoke excelled in the lead part and gave the audience all the eroticism that the original Oscar Wilde script contained. The previous evening, the above mentioned Gabrielle Schnaut gave a stunning performance as Elektra very ably supported by the now legendary Agnes Baltsa and Eva Maria Westbroek. Again, the set was minimalist but with very stunning lighting which complemented the manic and obsessive nature of the plot admirably; and Elektra herself made a wonderful exit swinging a huge axe from a small platform jutting out over the orchestra pit before finally collapsing dead at the final curtain - dramatic, effective, terrifying even (one American sitting close to the swinging axe said he was quite worried it might slip from her hands and land in the audience!) but beautiful in that strange eerie ‘Straussian’ kind of way. And the orchestra again excelled in this harsh and sometimes dissonant score that penetrates the ears and even the soul with its repeated chords and rhythms. This was an excellent evening.
So indeed was Massenet’s Werther, an opera, in my view, not performed regularly enough these days. The sets were a little strange with graffiti-type writing everywhere but effective use was made of a revolving stage and the singers had no difficulty projecting their voices in some of the great arias and duets the opera contains. Piotr Beczala gave a magnificent performance as Werther and Vesselina Kasarova was a good Charlotte although her voice did not match the power of Beczala’s. Unfortunately, this was marred by a very weak and stupid production of another Strauss masterpiece, Arabella. The sets were impossible - a dome shaped pile of paper formed the floor of the stage upon which the singers balanced precariously (and often slipped!) as they attempted to move on this ridiculous surface. The dome structure, meant no doubt to represent the ever accumulating debts of Graf Waldner, Arabella’s father, was then littered with pieces of furniture set at equally precarious angles, the centerpiece being a bed - the sole purpose of which appeared to be for the cast to have something to hold on to as they tried to move! Nor did the set change for Act 2, meant to be in a ballroom, and the producer allowed one of the great ‘unthinkables’ in staging - merging the second and third acts together, even though their settings are in entirely different locations. I use the word unthinkable here quite deliberately because of the tragic history of this great opera. This was the final collaboration between Strauss and Hofmannsthal who had in fact only completed Act 1 of the libretto and had submitted to Strauss several sketches for the rest of the opera; Hofmannsthal’s son then committed suicide and at the funeral, Hofmannsthal himself collapsed from a massive stroke and died almost instantly. Out of respect for his friend and colleague, Strauss left what had been submitted of the words unaltered even though he had already written to Hofmannsthal before the tragedy - a letter he never received - suggesting several changes. Strauss so respected his partner that he wrote the remainder of the libretto around the sketches which is as we know it today. What a great pity directors and producers cannot show the same respect for musicians and poets when producing their works. It made me both sad and angry to see a delightful period piece destroyed in this way. The singing was average only and Pamela Armstrong, who stepped in for an indisposed Anja Harteros was booed and hissed during the curtain calls; half the audience left without applauding and the remainder gave the piece a muted reception - director Andreas Homoki please note!
The operas were wonderfully supported by chamber concerts, gala concerts and several ‘Liederabend’ (song recital evenings). The most notable of these was the emerging tenor Jonas Kaufmann who gave a magnificent performance of Schubert’s early work, ‘Die Burgschaft’ (D.246), Benjamin Britten’s ‘Seven Sonnets after Michelangelo’ but the highlight was the set of Strauss songs that occupied the whole of the second half. Although written for soprano (Strauss did not care for male voices at all, especially the tenor!), Kaufman gave a sensitive and lyrical interpretation, exceptionally beautiful in the four songs (Opus 27) that Strauss wrote as a wedding present for his wife the soprano Pauline de Anha. Kaufman excelled in all of these but especially in his emotional interpretation of the hauntingly nostalgic and beautiful song ‘Morgen’. Kaufman, a name to watch, is a Munich born musician and the audience erupted in pleasure at every opportunity - 15 curtain calls and 4 encores - says it all, I think!
Aside from the music, Munich is also a great place to visit, with its friendly welcoming people, its charming cafes, and numerous and varied restaurants, its magnificent Baroque town hall with its hourly chiming clock and its rotating figurines on a high balcony, enticing markets like the fresh produce market, delightful parks and gardens, good museums and galleries and one of the best most fully integrated transport systems to get you about the city and its environs at a reasonable price. And also how convenient a location, too, for days further afield - to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Alpine foothills 90 minutes away by train, Salzburg birthplace of Mozart some 80 minutes away and the lovely historic town of Augsburg just over half an hour away - just to mention a few. But overall, a wonderful and exciting festival which the city can be justly proud of - a celebration of culture, with the emphasis on music, and a gathering of people from all over the world to help this city establish itself as a truly important world cultural centre. Following the lead set above, how wonderful it might be if all the various music groups and other interested parties came together in Chiang Mai and planned a small but concentrated music festival - with classical, jazz, and traditional Thai music! After all, Chiang Mai is one of the most important cultural centres in south-east Asia and we have the venues, a great deal of musical and traditional talent and a ready-made audience.

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