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Thailand's 'Renaissance man' set to make musical history

BANGKOK -- You cannot really get upset when Somtow Sucharitkul arrives more than 30 minutes late for an interview. His excuse is hard to beat. Deeply immersed in another world -- of gods, demons and holy men -- Thailand's "Renaissance man" was composing a scene from what is shaping into arguably the largest integrated work in classical music -- ever.

Somtow Sucharitkul in an interview in front of a Vincent van Gogh portrait. (Photo by Dnis Gray)

By 2020 -- "If I am still around," he jokes - Somtow, now 63, will have completed a cycle of 10 operas based on the Jataka tales, stories popular across Asia which depict the previous lives of Gautama Buddha. In duration, at least, the work will have surpassed that Mount Everest of opera, the 19th century Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner, which clocks in at around 16 hours for the four operas.

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