It’s not often that you hear songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Francis Poulenc and Richard Strauss performed one after the other, less than a mile from Jomtien Beach. That is, unless you happened to be at Ben’s Theater recently, where there was a splendid concert given by talented young Thai musicians. It featured lyric soprano Pimluk Vessawasdi and baritone Ittinat Seeboonruang who are members of Grand Opera Thailand, a successful opera company founded in 2012 by Stefan Sanchez. They were accompanied by their regular pianist Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarn and sang a selection of classical songs not only in English but also in Italian, German and French – in itself quite an achievement.
Pimluk opened the programme with a telling performance of V’adoro Pupille, an aria from Handel’s 1724 opera Giulio Cesare. From the start she demonstrated her powerful voice with its rich tone colour. She has a fine stage presence too and clearly enjoys performing, despite the fact that some of the songs were quite difficult.
(L to R) Ittinat Seeboonruang (baritone), Pimluk Vessawasdi (lyric soprano) and Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarn (piano) pose on stage at Ben’s Theater in Jomtien, Pattaya. (Photo/Ben Hansen)
Pimluk holds a bachelor degree in communication technology and is currently studying for a master’s degree in singing. Already, she’s won many prizes for vocal performance and has appeared on the sound tracks of several Thai films. All this wealth of experience was evident in her performances, notably in the aria Poor Wandering One from Gilbert & Sullivan’s opera The Pirates of Penzance. The audience clearly enjoyed her singing of the Puccini aria Quando m’en vo from La Boheme in which she showed her remarkable dynamic range and her skill in bringing the operatic characters to life.
Perhaps one of the highlights of Pimluk’s programme was another Puccini aria from Tosca, Vissi d’arte a lovely song which she sang in a beautifully controlled style. Another highlight was her performance of the delightful song by Poulenc, Les chemins de l’amour dedicated by the composer to the Parisian night-club singer and international star, Yvonne Printemps.
Ittinat began his selection with the aria Avant de quitter ces lieux from Gounod’s opera Faust and although he gave a commendable account of the piece he seemed much more at home in Wagner’s aria O du, mein holder Abendstern from the opera Tannhäuser. Perhaps the language helped, because Ittinat has a Bachelor of Arts in German. His diction was clear, and his voice well-controlled. Incidentally, for a time he studied with the acclaimed British bass-baritone, John Shirley-Quirk.
Ittinat also gave an excellent performance of Mozart’s Abendempfindung which is a lovely song though technically quite challenging. His intonation and phrasing were spot-on. He seemed at his best in a couple of French songs which for me at least, were one of the highlights of the evening. He gave a splendid performance of Duparc’s Chanson Triste and the lovely En Sourdine by Gabriel Fauré. He really seemed to bring out the essence of these two delicate songs with beautifully controlled vibrato and pleasing vocal tone quality.
His performance of the Vaughan Williams song Silent Noon was equally impressive as was his compelling reading of Rachmaninov’s In the Silence of the Secret Night written when the composer was just seventeen.
Then there were the duets, which were especially well received by the audience. Mozart’s tongue-twisting Papageno – Papagena Duet was a great success, as was the singers’ encore number, the famous Lippen Schweigen duet from Lehár’s The Merry Widow.
Throughout the concert I was impressed with the piano accompanist Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarn who is a prize-winning pianist in his own right. His playing was accurate, thoughtful and always with a compelling sense of style, reflecting perhaps his wide musical experience. He’s a fine young musician who has recently completed his Bachelor Degree in Composition. Interestingly he read most of the music not from sheets of printed paper, but from the screen of a small computer. A sign of the times, I suppose.