Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - MY PHNOM PENH: Sethisak Khuon, Opera Singer

MY PHNOM PENH: Sethisak Khuon, Opera Singer

Sethisak Khuon is a tenor and the first internationally trained opera singer in Cambodia.
Sethisak Khuon is a tenor and the first internationally trained opera singer in Cambodia.

MY PHNOM PENH: Sethisak Khuon, Opera Singer

Sethisak Khuon is a tenor and the first internationally trained opera singer in Cambodia. The award-winning singer studied in Moscow for eight years before returning to the Kingdom in 1996 to lay the groundwork for a future generation of classically trained musicians. He performs frequently in festivals, recitals and workshops – and for the King. This week, he spoke with Vandy Muong about the places in the city that shape his art

The School of Fine Arts

The School of Fine Arts

There was no university of fine arts during my childhood – it was the communist time, and I was in the first generation [of war]. The School of Fine Arts was the first art academy I attended, in 1980. I studied general studies and music, majoring in piano. We lived there: we ate, slept and studied together at school. The students did not care about money then, they were focused only on studies. The teachers chose the top students to study abroad. In 1988, I was selected to study in Russia. The School of Fine Arts has changed and relocated many times since then: the first building was located at what is now the Royal University of Fine Arts. Soon it will move to the other side of the Japanese bridge.

The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace

Opera performance requires a professional place to perform, and we don’t have an opera house. When I returned from Russia in the 1990s, I first performed in the Royal Palace. Whenever a president or senior member of state from another country comes to visit the King, my music crew and I rehearse the national concert to play at the official Royal Palace event. For example, Chinese president [Xi Jinping] will visit the King this weekend. I am the national opera singer, and I always perform at the royal concerts. There is a different repertoire for different guests, sometimes from their selection and sometimes on my recommendation.

The Council of Ministers building

The Council of Ministers building

The Council of Ministers building is a limited and private space to perform for important guests. After a meeting, the Cambodian ministers will welcome foreign guests with a concert, singing and dancing. I’m always invited by Cambodian politicians to sing for events. I can sing three to four songs for each event; sometimes I perform solo. It’s good to have a musical performance – it makes people relaxed. The Council of Ministers has a stage for us to perform, but it’s not professional, there is no acoustic background. But an opera stage would require a lot of investment.

Good Time Gym

Good Time Gym

Good health is more important than anything. As a singer, I have to keep up my health as a way of living. I like to do training to keep a strong voice, and playing tennis. Besides rehearsing and singing, I take every day to relax at the Good Time Gym, where I have a membership card. It’s a large space and the atmosphere is good. It’s a great place to meet friends there; they care about good health as well. Most of my friends there are in the government. There aren’t many artists who care for sports.

Restaurants

Restaurants

People might think that each singer eats special food to keep a good voice, but I eat everything. I like Khmer, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Western food. I don’t have a family at home and I don’t cook for myself, so I eat all three meals out in town. After exercising, I like to go for a steak and wine at Topaz or the Original Steakhouse, because it’s high-quality. Sometimes I meet friends at the restaurant. I always focus on what I want to eat, it depends on the feeling. Luckily, Phnom Penh has everything.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all