‘La Boheme’ outdoors to light up summer nights

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jun 13, 2012 - 19:53
  • Updated : Jun 13, 2012 - 19:53
5 billion won project features opera singer Angela Gheorghiu and conductor Chung Myung-whun of Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra

Almost ten years ago, Korean agencies started to bring in foreign opera productions, staging them at big venues in Seoul and selling tickets at record-high prices.

There was “Turandot” staged in May 2003 at the Sangam World Cup Stadium and four months later, “Aida” at Jamsil Stadium. The two outdoor opera productions drew huge media attention at the time thanks to the grandeur of the stage setting and the number of opera singers featured. But the two failed due to sound problems, distance from the stage to the audience, the ridiculously high price and the audience shivering in the cold night.

Despite the lingering criticisms, an outdoor production of Puccini’s “La Boheme” is coming to Seoul this summer, inviting the audience into the world of European opera. Having learned from the bitter experience of past failures, a local production company. Amici della Lirica, came up with new ideas ― finding a suitable venue and stars to draw attention.
World famous soprano Angela Gheorghiu (right) will play Mimi in outdoor opera “La Boheme” in Seoul in August. (ADL)

This file photo shows the Antique Theatre of Orange staging the opera “Tosca” in Orange, France in 2010. (ADL)

This time, the opera will be staged at the Amphitheater at Yonsei University in Seoul on Aug. 28- Sept. 2 featuring two world stars ― opera diva Angela Gheorghiu and maestro Chung Myung-whun.

This is the first time that the two are performing together, according to ADL. And it was Gheorghiu who requested the Korean production company first contact Chung.

“When we proposed the project to Gheorghui, she said she wanted to perform with maestro Chung or never,” said Hwangbo Yoo-mi, publicist for ADL.

Gheorghiu, 46, is a world-renowned opera star who has performed numerous times with the Metropolitan Opera in New York and other renowned opera companies around the world.

The collaboration between the two stars will result in the most unforgettable performance, Hwang said.

“La Boheme” is one of the soprano’s favorites and she has performed the piece many times. The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra led by Chung won’t have major problems either as it has already collaborated with the Korea National Opera to stage “La Boheme” twice in April and May, she added.

The upcoming performance will be directed by Nadine Duffaut and her production team from Orange Opera Festival in France. The opera festival is probably the oldest festival in France. It is also famous for “The Antique Theatre of Orange,” one of the best preserved Roman theatres in Europe, whose original stage wall was built some 2,000 years ago.

The acoustics of the Antique Theatre of Orange and the Amphitheater of Yonsei University are similar, Duffaut had said in a previous interview. The amphitheater, surrounded by a forest, perfectly shuts out traffic noise and its marble floor on the stage will help the sound vibrate, she added.

Based on Henri Murger’s novel “La Vie de Boheme,” the opera in four acts portrays young artists living in the Latin quarters in Paris in the mid-19th century. The opera mainly tells the unfortunate love story between young poet Rodolfo and Mimi, which ends with Mimi’s tragic death. In addition Gheorghiu, and other famous European opera singers such as Fiorenza Cedolines, Vittorio Grigolo and Marcello Giordani will play the title roles.

Puccini, one of the most influential opera composers of the 19th and 20th centuries, created a number of masterpieces, including “Tosca” which premiered in 1900, “Madame Butterfly,” premiered at La Scala in 1904, and “Turandot” in 1926. “La Boheme” has become one of the most frequently performed operas in the world after it premiered in 1896.

Ticket prices have not been set yet. But it is likely to set a new record, creating new levels of premium seats that are priced at probably over 500,000 won, the opera’s promotion company said. Ticket sales open on June 19.

By Cho Chung-un (christory@heraldcorp.com)