Powerful Korean ballet mesmerizes Naples

  • Published : Oct 13, 2011 - 20:08
  • Updated : Oct 13, 2011 - 21:26

Korea National Ballet’s ‘Prince Hodong’ premiere at San Carlo Theater performs to sold-out audience

NAPLES ― A wild roar of applause and countless bravos filled the 300-year-old theater as dancers took their bows at the end of the ballet telling the ancient Korean tale of ill-fated lovers.

Korea National Ballet’s show “Prince Hodong” was sold out on Wednesday, the first its two performances at San Carlo Theater in Naples, Italy. Over 1,300 came to see the unfamiliar contemporary ballet from a country on the opposite side of the globe.

During the intermission and after the performance, the ballet-goers chatted about how it differed from European ballet, especially about the powerful choreography of the fast-paced battle scenes. 
A scene from Korea National Ballet’s premier of “Prince Hodong” at San Carlo Theater on Wednesday. (KNB)

“The story of a princess choosing love over her father and country was very tragic and interesting, and the battle scenes were fantastic. It was something I had never seen before,” said Sabrina Autiero, a Naples girl who got tickets to the show as an 18th birthday present from friends. She had told them that she wanted to see something different and exciting, she said.

Roberto Olivier, a traveler from Spain who came upon the show by chance that day, said that it was so fascinating that he did not miss a single scene and that his worries about falling asleep due to travel fatigue were needless.

“I have seen many European ballets but they were just sweet in general. It was almost shocking to see such dynamic battle and hunting scenes today. And the heroine was so graceful while the hero was so powerful. The contrast of the two was very impressive,” he said.

“Prince Hodong” is an original Korean contemporary ballet based on a mythical Korean tale about the tragic love story between Prince Hodong and Princess Nakrang who come from two warring states.

It was invited by the Italian theater as the opener for the second San Carlo Dance Festival. Other dance companies participating in the nearly month-long festival include Lyon Opera Ballet and Carolyn Carlson Company.

“We put in three years to produce ‘Prince Hodong.’ I am moved beyond words ... I am grateful to see it performed in Italy, the birthplace of ballet,” said Choi Tae-ji, director of KNB who was in tears after the show. Since its premiere in Seoul in November 2009, the show has become one of KNB’s representative repertoires. 
Choi Tae-ji (left), director of Korea National Ballet, poses with Rosanna Purchia, superintendent of San Carlo Theater on Wednesday at San Carlo Theater in Naples, Italy. (KNB)

Established in 1737, San Carlo Theater is one of Europe’s oldest theaters which has hosted famous operas such as Rossini’s “Otello” and Verdi’s “Luis Miller.” Its stunning interior design is also well known. San Carlo Dance Academy, opened in 1816, is the oldest of its kind in Italy.

Rosanna Purchia, superintendent of San Carlo Theater, really pushed to host KNB’s show. After hearing much praise of KNB from an Italian staffer who was in charge of the stage and costumes for KNB’s “Giselle” in February, Purchia watched “Prince Hodong” on video and was so impressed that she decided to introduce it to Naples. Kim Young-seok, the Korean ambassador in Italy, worked as a bridge between the theater and KNB.

“I can sum up the impression I had after watching the show in one Korean word: ‘han.’ It would be similar to ‘pathos’ in Italian. It is not a simple hatred or sadness, but a more profound sorrow and love that are reborn, following the prior feelings. Watching the ballet, one could feel the Eastern mentality and emotion. I know that Italians will be greatly touched by it,” said Purchia.

Kim Ji-young and Kim Joo-won, KNB’s principal ballerinas, share the role as princess Nakrang. Kim Ji-young took the stage on Wednesday with Jung Young-jae who is cast as prince Hodong.

By Park Min-young, Korea Herald correspondent