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Opera form battles decline

Say Tola / Khmer Times Share:
Lakhorn niyeay shows at the National Museum. KT/Srey Kumneth

Lakhorn niyeay,  once named as the national opera form, has seen a decline in popular support.

It was named  “National lakhorn of Cambodia” in 1944. Three years later, it became the most successful form of lakhorn.

At that time an instructor thought of recording in to broadcast on the radio. After that it took on the name National Lakhorn Radio.

However, it has almost disappeared from Khmer lakhorn based on many factors.

Speaking at an event brought by Cambodian Living Arts at the National Museum of Cambodia on Sunday, Nen Phearith, choreographer and team leader of Phearith Lakhorn Niyeay, said that not many people knew lakhorn niyeay because it had decreased in popularity since the arrival of Khmer comedy.

And the income that actors get is very little comparing with other forms of lakhorn.

“Lakhorn niyeay requires many techniques such the art of performing, stage preparation and speech techniques,” Mr Phearith said.

“Also, this form requires lots of days to rehearse but actors get very little pay for performing. Importantly, only a few people know and support this form.”

Under the influence of Western culture, young people spend their money on movies rather than Khmer classical arts performances.

Mr Phearith said sadly that he spent almost ten years studying the art form, but if Khmer people kept ignoring it lakhorn niyeay would be lost as part of Khmer culture.

“I have struggled with lakhorn niyeay for almost ten years, but I still can’t support even myself,” he said. “Because I love this form I can’t step out to find another job to support my family.

“As a resulted, my parents have debts because they spent money on my studies. They now live in subsidised housing.”

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