Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Fashion Statement for my Declining Years

Well, I now have to wear this device each night. But life as an idle layabout is not so bad, and it's only for 30 days.

Your emails and letters and even flowers (from as far away as Shanghai!) have been just wonderful. Catherine, who is running the opera company along with members of my family and the intrepid Ratana and Noo, is rather astounded at the sheer volume of what I used to have to take care of each day before getting to the creative work; after a week, she's already casting around wildly for a team of volunteers or ersatzSomtows.

And I'm hearing from friends I haven't talked to in absolute years ... here's what Alan Dean Foster says to me: "I get a chuckle out of envisioning you, of all people, after all the creatures and critters you've dealt with in your work, being terrified of something as prosaic as an MRI" … and Marti McKenna has just told me that her "baby" is now 25 years old. At least most people are seeing the possibilities for comedy in all this as well; I would hate to depress anyone; indeed, I am planning my funeral as a stand-up comic routine, with Trisdee's Requiem as a sort of intermission piece. (It will be pretty funny when my corpse stands up; it will have to be rigged with 1980s style special effects hydraulics, like the pizza of death in Nightmare on Elm Street III).

I must say that the apnea-controlling device itself is a nuisance. In my sleep, I often end up unhooking it. There must be a nice Greek-derived medical term for people who unhook themselves from medical apparatus in their sleep. If there isn't, with my trusty Greek dictionary in hand, I'll just coin one: autohypnoekiatromechanoapankistronysis. Who says I've lost my touch at creating catchy new words?

Well, now that I am back home at least for a few days (the lab may require me for more medical experiments on Monday) knowing that I'm allowed to work as long it is on creative things and not stressful organizational things, I've already written the first five chapters of a new fantasy trilogy set in Bangkok which is a sort of cross between Bangkok 8 and Harry Potter. You may not think this possible, so we will just have to see. I'm hoping to do for Bangkok what Neil did for London (or maybe what Emma and Will did for Minneapolis!) By the way, if any of you have read both Will Shetterly's novel Dogland and my novel Jasmine Nights, you will know that he and I had exactly the same childhood -- 12,000 miles apart. It is one of those extraordinary things.

But what of the opera? Well, it is not exactly running itself, but one thing that is occurring as a result of all this is that it is learning to run itself. Whether it will complete the learning curve within 30 days is an unknown quantity, but circumstances are forcing our hand and it had simply better learn.

I do of course have a new opera in the works, Dan no Ura, and I had to give up the premiere in order to place Die Walküre within this calendar year. I am not currently suffering from composer's block, so we will simply have to see how the return to two creative streams can play out.

I'm proud because this visiting young trumpet player from Belgium, Stan Nieuwenhuis, showed up in Bangkok (he was supposed to play in the Wagner, but he's come anyway in order to have his holiday) and I took him for a tour of the notorious software stews of Bangkok; I stayed on my feet for four hours without getting tired and I think they had a great time; though now I'm feeling a huge fatigue.

I just have to remember not to overdo it....

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Horror … the Horror … Reddux

Dear Friends

In response to many notes of concern which Catherine has forwarded to me and others which I've discovered on my computer today, I'm writing a note which you are free to forward to any others who might be wondering if I'm okay.

A certain writer who was at Cambridge with me, and became far more rich and famous than I ever will, once said "Don't Panic".

I would say that to you, but I would also have to point out that having dispensed this brilliant piece of advice in "The Hitchhiker's Guilde to the Galaxy," Douglas Adams subsequently dropped dead.

A fate I am now trying to avoid.

By now many of you have heard rumors so I am sending out this letter to all of you. Probably around the end of this week, I will be back home from the hospital, and I will be able to correspond by email in a limited sort of way, and to have visitors.

I have not had a heart attack (at least not recently), nor have I had a nervous breakdown. I have not been driven to a state of clinical depression by the spate of recent personal attacks and bizarre censorship scandals. What has happened to me *is* life-threatening, but I am assured that it can easily be taken care of if I only do what my doctors say I should do. So I want to say upfront that there is no reason to panic.

At the recent concert, "Sacred and Profane", many of my friends noticed that I was in a state of apparent near collapse. Some commented on it. Even some people who didn't know me personally thought that something might be wrong. After the admin meeting which was held at the Four Seasons after the concert, Catherine Cushing and Guy Pace had to actually sort of carry me to my car.

I checked into Piyavate Hospital and have been under the care of one of the best cardiologists in the country, a member of the royal family's medical team. The reason for the cardiologist is that, 18 months ago, around the time of "das Rheingold," some tests I had indicated that I might have suffered a minor heart attack, and my doctor told me to take a month off right then, or suffer the consequences later. I didn't do that and went on to have the most active year of my Bangkok career. "Later" has now arrived along with some of the consequences.

The good news is that, although at first this is what was feared, I did NOT in fact have a minor heart attack this time. And though there have been in the last six months symptoms that could have indicated a minor stroke, such as being unable to think of words and losing track of things, and some bizarre numbness that began in Holland in January, I do not appear to have had one of those either.

My medical problem is actually much simpler than all this.

You see, for my entire working life, I have been a night person, composing or writing from midnight to about 6 am each day, sleeping until the early afternoon, and taking care of business, shopping, etc. in the late afternoon and evening.

When I started running the Bangkok Opera, I started having to wake up at 8 or 9 am because there was all the administrative functions to perform, meetings to take, and so on. However, I didn't stop also working from midnight to 6. Since I also work on weekends, and have not taken a holiday in seven years, my basic problems in fact stem from a massive and chronic stress overload which is exacerbated by a sleep disorder. Even the few hours of sleep I get are constantly interrupted by sudden stoppages of the flow of oxygen, so that I'm always getting up disoriented all night long. The results from the sleep lab show that even with a full night's sleep, I never enter "Stage 4 sleep" at all, and that during REM sleep I often stop breathing completely with the result that I actually suffocate. So, there's a simple biological explanation for these wild metaphysical dreams I've been having about encounters with God, angels, dead people and so on … which certainly takes the romance out of it all. I think I'll prefer to believe there's a metaphysical aspect to these near-death moments.

Basically I've crammed about 14 years of activity into 7, and if I don't take the rest that the doctors told me to take 18 months ago NOW, I have been assured that I will, in fact, drop dead, or at the very least be out for 3 to 6 months instead of just one.

Certainly the hate emails, the financial stress of the opera, the censorship nonsense, the slanderous faxes to members of the royal family, and all the other rubbish that goes with musical politics in Thailand haven't helped, but alas, my many detractors can't really take the credit for causing this. I did it to myself. It wouldn't have happened if I'd stayed in L.A. And I would have to say that it was worth it. When I look back at everything I've helped to make happen in this country, all the careers I've helped to start (even of those who are trying desperately to pretend I don't exist!) I really don't mind that I'm paying for it physically right now.

At first, I was extremely dismayed at all this, especially since the debut of part two of our Ring Cycle is going to be delayed until November. But Catherine is of the opinion that she and my family didn't intervene a moment too late. Perhaps they are right. I finally have a moment, literally, to catch my breath.

I've probably got only about 20 years before death or Alzheimer's takes me, so I'd like to make sure that as much as possible of what I've planned for my life can actually happen. Establishing permanent, serious classical music institutions in Thailand that will still be around in a few centuries is part of my agenda. (Doing my own Ring cycle is a small and slightly self-indulgent part of this big picture.) Also, I have a few major works of fiction and music that I need to complete. Please bear with me while I step back for just 30 days to organize the rest of my productive life.

One result of this crisis is that I will not be running the opera 24 hours a day when I come back, not for seven more years, not even for another season. The inner board of the opera company is going to search for people to take over all the administrative and fundraising aspects of the company so that I can concentrate on being artistic director, which had always been the original plan. Although the opera season will probably expand when I come back thanks to -- at last -- government subsidy and a more stable fundraising base -- I will only conduct or direct a a small part of the season -- which was also always the original plan. This is because I also have to have to compose, write my novels, and work in film (several offers have come as my Hollywood colleagues have finally managed to track me down despite my having escaped L.A.)

The postponement of "Walküre" is in the grand scheme of things is not that huge an interruption in the season. With the extra time to get things right, I am sure it will be more satisfying. I'm excited that they are allowing me to keep "Butterfly" in August and that I'll be working with many trusted friends like Henry Akina, Nancy Yuen and Colin Morris. The good news is that, although it's driven me to illness, the last two months have seen an important upturn in our fortunes, with two government bodies finally interested in providing genuine financial support, a U.S. grantwriter coming on board, and so on, and it is now clear that the opera company, with or without me, will survive and do better than before.

I want to thank all of you for your letters and emails. There have been a lot, and I can't respond to them all right away, but I will try to. I'll be able to see people in the afternoons, starting next week, and I'm postponing the "Sacred and Profane" and "Dido" cast parties to around july 7 so that Trisdee can participate.

With love to all from

Somtow in the Hospital

Posted Today

Dr Frankenstein's latest victim

Monday, June 25, 2007

Re-living Poe

I didn't realize how terrifying "The Premature Burial" was until the doctors tried to give me an MRI. I was only in the machine for a minute when I began screaming! So, they said, don't worry. We'll knock you out. The nurse took the above photo as they were about to try for a second time. The "knock out" turned out to be about 10 mg of Valium, and as this is perhaps only 5% of the average Hollywood producer's daily recreational dosage, you can imagine what little effect it had, especially upon someone of my immense fatness.

After what I thought was hours (but which they assured me was only 10 minutes) a huge panic attack occurred.

I guess that if there's something wrong with my brain, they're not going to find out.

Meanwhile, the prognosis is quite encouraging. "Sure, it's life threatening" my doctor said, but he seemed very jolly about it. Then he added, "But don't worry, I'm going to cure you."

More when next I can sneak away.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Becoming Alien

This is a pretty good depiction of how I felt before being forced, kicking and screaming to the hospital. This bulletin is short. I'm in good spirits. Everyone is certainly making a fuss. I hope I shall prove worthy of it. After the "sleep lab" experiment next week, I'll probably be able to deliver a full report. As some of you may no, I've been given the option of either taking it easy for a month now and then resuming a normal life, or continuing the normal life and dropping dead a few months hence. It's therefore no exaggeration to say that by compelling me to take option one, taking the matter entirely out of my hands, that is, Catherine and my family members have actually saved my life (at least for now.)

Until I'm subjected to the scientific experiments next week, I'm resting up in what Catherine has asked me to describe as an "undisclosed location." Okay, I am in pain and all that, but I'm still able to see the humor in all this. I am it seems able to sneak online once in a while.

If, after all this mollycoddling, I still manage to croak, I want Trisdee to compose a new requiem.

I'll have a less tongue in cheek missive about the state of affairs in Somtow's World in a couple of days....

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I'm not at all well so here's a video

Vergene Bella by Dufay

Posted 1 Hour Ago

Orpheus Choir of Bangkok and Musica Ficta Consort performs the Thailand premiere of this gorgeous piece by Dufay, "Vergene Bella", (600 years later) at the Pridi Auditorium under the direction of Somtow Sucharitkul.

I'm going to be in and out of hospitals, having hideous tests, and so on for a while. They say it's not life-threatening (yet). I'm home briefly to pick up a few things and sort things out. I know they have the internet at the hospital, so I will try to post in a few days.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Notes from the Banquet

Well, all right, I'm still staggering around and limping and so on, but here's a brief report on the Renaissance Banquet. The food wasn't exactly 15th century, and we received a full complement of knives and forks to eat it with, and there weren't any boars rotating on spits or anything like that. Still it was a pretty passable imitation of a feast. The Four Seasons, indeed, outdid itself.

It was a strange mix of guests. About a third were members of Thailand's upper crust, including three (count 'em) Khunyings (real ones, that is, i.e. members of royal families rather than "created" ones). They included the wily M.R. Sunida, the winsome M.R. Benjapa, and the wild M.R. Malini. Another third were local music lovers and/or lovers of fine social events. Yet another third were graduate students from Golden Gate University's Faculty of Law, who were in Thailand for a summer international law course.

To make the evening more merry (or "merrie") there was a raffle whose prizes included a pearl necklace and a spa holiday in Chiengmai.

Of course, these three audiences were not exactly afficionados of the music of such 14th century greats as Landini and Dufay. Nevertheless, they seemed to have a great time. One of the great advantages of music of this period is that it's considerably shorter than Wagner. Your attention doesn't really have that much time to wander. There were many high points, among them the animated poetry readings.

I'll be posting a video as soon as I get one....

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Another Cheap Shot

Bless its elitist heart! The Tatler has taken a cheap shot at me this month! Well, as Oscar Wilde said, there's only one thing worse than being talked about — it's not being talked about. Well, I won't tell you what they said – you'll have to buy the magazine. I might as well help them sell copies.

I'll report soon on last night's concert which seems to have been wildly successful, but at this very moment I'm sort of a cripple from being on my feet too much last night ... crawling to the bathroom and suchlike ... I'll write again when the agony subsides....

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Savage Breast

Well, the last 24 hours started hideously enough, with two friends caught in car crashes (luckily they turned out not to be too serious), word of further sneak attacks by the anti-Somtow consortium, and so on. In the morning, the tunics for the Renaissance concert singers turned up and they seemed to be about seven sizes too small; the only local dancers who could do the Pavane suddenly absconded; and there were rumors that various local ministries were going to renege on various implied promises. By noon, I had more or less decided to go back to America.

But in the evening we had a rehearsal of this concert and the Monteverdi was moving beyond words, the Byrd had me in tears, the recorder player ornamented brilliantly, the mediaeval harp sounded just right, and I started to think, once more, that it might be worth doing all this. Again, the idea of having this music heard for the first time in this distant land, hundreds of years after it was composed, and having people be profoundly moved by it, is so powerful that it can cause one to forget the trauma.

One rarely sees God, unless it is an acid flashback. But extremely profound music is one of the things that can trigger such an experience.

Last night I came home from the rehearsal and when I went to sleep the ravishing Dufay motet Vergene Bella kept playing again and again in my head. The words, by Petrarch, say "Love moves me to begin my prayer to thee, but without thee I cannot even begin." I dreamed that I was wandering in my own house (indeed, it did not seem like a dream.) I opened the door to my own bedroom to discover a sleeping child. At first I thought it was one of the young musicians who sometimes visits the house or one of Trisdee's friends. The room was filled with blinding light and the child was golden, and he said to me, "Don't be afraid; I'll always be with you." And when I looked into his face it was simultaneously very youthful and the face of an old man. I thought that this must be a ghost. And I was flooded with both terror and exhilaration (maybe the closest feeling I can think of is when you're coming down the first and tallest hill of a roller coaster, sitting in the front car, appearing to plummet into oblivion yet sure there will be a last minute rescue.) I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep and when I was still in the half-dreaming state, my inner voice said to me, "Well, actually, that was God." And I started to shiver.

I got up and answered email and so on, unable to go back to sleep for a very long time. My next dream was of an endless audition where I was casting both Wagner and Puccini, and dispensing roles to favored persons with impresario-ish magnanimity. This dream ended in a leg spasm of such excruciating pain that I could not walk for the entire morning.

What is this all about? Well, clearly, God has not forsaken me quite yet. But he is making me sweat pretty hard along the way.

This morning the intrepid Catherine Cushing tells me that, after her car crash, she resembles a unicorn. Well, wherever there are unicorns, magic is still real.

And there was certainly magic in tonight's concert. Dufay, Byrd, Landini and Monteverdi were heavenly and brought me to tears many times. The poetry is nice but I'm afraid some of it must be cut on Thursday to make way for dining and high society chit chat. Still, it will be an even nicer event and my sister and I tasted the food yesterday; it was superb, better even than the food that we had for Dido.

The dreams seem to come constantly now. It's obvious that there's a shift in the tectonic plates of my world. The last time I dreamed so frequently and with such metaphysical dream content was in the week before I was ordained as a Buddhist monk. That was in 2001, and when I emerged from monkhood I entered a period of wild creative ferment. Six months ago, post-Ayodhya, I entered a time of utmost darkness. This time appears to be coming to an end.

A person whom I love very deeply, but who has recently decided that I am the most evil person in the universe, has been emailing my friends to say that I need a shrink. He's right of course, but no one in their right mind would want to do what I want to do.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

All Day Long

Saturday. Spent the night copying instrumental parts for the Renaissance event. Spent the morning thinking hard about the Walküre because those the movie that runs inside one's head must finally be converted into practical things. In one's head one can try out one combination after another; but we are often limited to inhabiting only one reality. It's rather sad, and large amounts of human energy are expended in imaging other realities, but all those realities, however remote, are eventually seen only through the lens of the one we live in.

Received an email from Babu, a very old friend of mine from the past, who recently resurfaced in my life. He's read this whole blog, or close to it ... I knew there was an audience out there somewhere! ... He knows that I'm a "storyteller" so he expresses some doubt that my bank account was actually reduced to 241 baht last week. Well, dramatic reversals are part of the deal in the world of the freelance artist -- that account suddenly jumped by 200,000% with the sudden arrival of some royalties, and a French tax refund! So, perhaps the corpse dream (q.v.) is actually coming true after all. Who knows? Of course, the dream was wrong about the lottery ticket, but only because it was upside down. If I'd known, I would have fallen asleep upside down!

Today, Sunday, should be a day of rest but for me has been a day of four major and variegated "operations". First a radio talk show to publicize the "Sacred and Profane" evenings the day after tomorrow. Then a working brunch with our newest committee member. Then a lengthy and exhausting but brilliantly effective rehearsal of our Mediaeval and Renaissance pieces ... and finally a gloriously decadent dinner at the home of the redoubtable M.L. Poomchai. During the course of the dinner, many scurrilous dark secrets were revealed about many of Thailand's most aristocratic families. I have to admit that I myself spilled a few beans I shouldn't have spilled. I'm afraid that a new book must surely be in the works, because it's clear that "Jasmine Nights" simply couldn't hold all the eccentricities of Thailand's self-named elite. It's been a day of tremendous artistic stimulation and Shavian witticisms. If I had too many days like this, I'd probably implode.

Dr Poonpit, at the Radio Show, told me an extremely exciting story; that during the reign of King Rama VI, an opera about King Taksin had been planned of which only sketches survive. Dr Poonpit has found those sketches and has strongly urged me to try to reconstruct the opera, which apprently went into rehearsal but failed to get all the way to a premiere....

The excitement continues tomorrow, I'm afraid!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Back to the Renaissance

In a week's time, our little subset of the Orpheus Choir which has been meeting at my house for the last 5 weeks will be doing a little concert of music of the Renaissance. Today's rehearsal was a revelation; Dufay and Byrd really spoke to our little ensemble for the first time; it was quite a moving experience. If you're reading this blog and are free Tuesday or Thursday, do show up. I'm not sure whether it's the first time in Thailand for ALL these pieces of music, but I'm almost certain that's true for nine out of ten. People will also be treated to the poetry of Ronsard, Opitz, Michelangelo, Petrarch, Shakespeare etc. all in their original tongues....

Meanwhile, drawing up comprehensible blocking charts for Walküre is pretty wild....

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Writer's Block Officially Over

There was a time when people only had to wait a few months for the next S.P. Somtow novel or short story. My list of published books stands at around 50, but it's all between the years 1981 and 2001. Of course, to say that I have been blocked for the last seven years is not exactly accurate. I've composed three operas, a requiem, a couple of symphonies and so on. In fact, my friend Chaslin, the famous opera conductor and composer, pointed out that to have three full scale operas composed AND produced in about 5 years is pretty unusual; it may not, indeed, have happened since the days of Verdi and Donizetti and that crowd. On second thought, I bet it happened to Benjamin Britten.

However, the novelistic well did seem to have run dry, for a while, just as my composing well ran dry between the years 1982 and 1997 except for a few B movie soundtracks.

So I'm happy to announce that I have in fact now finished a long overdue novel, The Stone Buddha's Tears, commissioned in 2004 or thereabouts. It's a young adult book, it's set in Bangkok, and it contains some pretty radical social commentary which some may find a little controversial. Though it's not really about that, it's about the usual bullshit: friendship, love, relationships, the human condition, etc etc etc.

I think this means that the writing tap is ON again. As far as I know, however, the composing tap is not yet OFF. It remains to be seen how this will all balance out.

My next assignment is a short story I promised the internet magazine Aberrant Dreams. This story is just whizzing along, though, so if they happen to be checking this blog, I'll say, "Hold your horses!"

Also, I'm finally assembling the long-awaited "Sonnets about Serial Killers" ... and that leaves the last book of mine that's overdue, the even more long-awaited "Nirvana Express" the diary of my monkhood which was originally partially serialized in THE NATION. The publisher waited so long for this last one that I substituted another book, the short story collection "Dragon's Fin Soup." We were all hoping that Takashi Miike's movie of that story would be out soon ... they sent me the latest screenplay adaptation to look at ...

The next four days will be wildly preparing for the Renaissance Banquet on the 14th, ironing out some details about Wagner, and trying to make sense out of the fact that the writing spigot has suddenly come on again. It seems that dramatic changes are in store....

Monday, June 4, 2007

Oh, well, I ALMOST won....

Indeed, my dream was correct. But I still didn't win the lottery. The only problem was ... the 3 figures were at the BEGINNING of the sequence, not the end. Conversely, if I held the ticket upside down in my dream, I would have got the right sequence for the ENDING three digits....

As Christopher Plummer said in Fall of the Roman Empire, "You can hear the Gods laughing...."

Sunday, June 3, 2007


Now that I've been able to manipulate the Photobooth program into giving me only one eye, I suppose I will have to look for a country of the blind to rule over....

Monday morning, 3:30 am. When I awaken, all hell breaks loose. I will try for a decent night's sleep. No dreams lately, and the magic number dreamt about in the dream with all the dead bodies has not yet produced a winning lottery ticket.

Birth and death figured prominently this weekend, but I failed to participate in either. There was a ceremony with my uncle's ashes in Pattaya, and my friend Cat was also in Pattaya, wildly celebrating her birthday. I remained closeted in my home office, brooding mostly. It's been a strange few days and I have been a little out of it.

I'll sleep now and face the horror in the morning.…

The Yates Motel

It's not as though I didn't have enough to do, but yesterday I was in a bit of a sonneteering mood, and I decided to add a few more sonnets to my growing volume of Sonnets about Serial Killers (due out as soon as there are enough to fill a book.) For example, I did a companion piece to a sonnet I wrote years ago about Susan Smith (the woman who drove her kids into a lake). This one is about Andrea Yates, who was told by angel of the lord to drown her five children in a bathtub. Do check it out (and some of the other new ones, too.) Years ago, some of them appeared in a rather brilliant Italian translation, and a couple have come out in Hebrew as well, but those I haven't seen.

And speaking of the Bates Motel, I've often wondered how Ed Gein, the notorious Wisconsin killer who killed women who looked like his mother, flayed them and wore little pieces of them, would have reacted to the various movie killers who in some way were inspired by him.

So I wrote this little sonnet about that:

Ed Gein Critiques his Biopics

Down here in Hell, they’ve got a movie theatre
And in my copious free time, I’m aghast
To see my weird existence rendered weirder
The further it retreats into the past.

Though I liked Psycho, I’ll give Hitchcock flack,
For I was sagging, plump, no Tony Perkins,
And he omitted my artistic bent, my knack
For slicing women’s privates into merkins.

When Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out,
Trophies there were of skin and flesh and bone
Reminding me of home. What made me pout?
They had a clan – I did it all alone!

And ho-hum Hannibal? I just ignored
That Oscar and that Golden Globe Award.

The above photo, incidentally, is not the entertainment at the Bates Motel, but a picture of the Rheinmaidens from last year's Ring Cycle (Part I). For, in between bouts of sonneteering and finishing this novel (of which I have 30 pages left to write, so it has to be handed in this week) I am now hard at work on the details of Part II. Indeed, today, Sunday, is not a day of rest as I've got a big production meeting in the morning....

I think I will leave you today with a clip from Das Rheingold. You will see the wild Colin Morris in Bangkok this year, but not as the evil Alberich; instead he will be playing the mild-mannered and sensitive Sharpless from Madama Butterfly.

Friday, June 1, 2007


Tomorrow the sun will rise on the first official production day for "Die Walküre". So here I am, the Roger Corman of the opera world, embattled but not embittered, still waiting for Godot, though God will do very nicely.

We've got an interesting new production manager coming on board. I haven't had the greatest luck with production managers — they seem to turn out to have been coke addicts, Trojan horses, or schizophrenics — but with each one comes hope. Hans Nieuwenhuis once told me that it took him eleven years to find the right one, and then, miraculously, many of the traumas of running his operation evaporated into thin air. Perhaps this will happen this time!

I've had a lot of comments (mostly private emails) about how to deal with "that clause" in the cultural center's contract. So, I want to say that I've signed it. Why? Because the provisions about what might constitute "the culture and good morals of Thailand" are so vague that I don't think they would hold up. Certainly, if the police should rush in and close down the opera on the grounds of protecting cutural purity, it would be a publicity bonanza the likes of which I've never seen in my life. I've signed it, but I haven't actually sent it back yet....

I'm sure Richard Wagner would be proud of me, even though I am a member of an inferior race!

I've also found out that the indefatigable Sophie Tanapura is putting on "Figaro" in July. This is splendid! One of the joys of having turned Bangkok into the "operatic hub of Southeast Asia" is seeing other people put on their own productions. It's never easy to put on an opera. More things can go wrong in an opera than in any other type of performance. That's what keeps us on the edge of our seats. Everyone needs to buy tickets and show their support.

I really look forward to the day when people in Bangkok will no longer say, "There's an opera next month" but rather, "Which opera shall we see tonight?" or, "Which did you like more, Somtow's Wozzeck or Trisdee's?" This, ultimately, is the vision that I had when I sold my house in L.A. and allowed myself to be worked like a dog with no pay. This is the reason I shrug off all the idiots dragging me through the mud, sending lying faxes and emails about me to each other, and so on. There's a higher purpose to all this and even my gratuitous torments have, in the end, helped to bring about the fulfillment of my vision.

And speaking of Trisdee, I told you that yesterday night he sent me a pop song he wrote in Garageband! Splendid lyrics, the use of the "f" word guaranteed to raise a few eyebrows ... the most surprising thing of all is that kid's got a great pop singing voice. If he tires of conducting Charpentier, he'll have to work for MTV.

I remain, at this dark moment, guardedly optimistic. In the words of Little Orphan Annie and Scarlet O'Hara, I have only this to say —