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Domestic operas to highlight festival

Korea Opera Festival also presents works by Puccini, Strauss, Saint-Saens

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Published : 2014-04-22 20:36
Updated : 2014-04-22 20:36

The poster for the Korea Opera Festival (KOF)
Two Korean operas and classic Italian, French and German operas will highlight this year’s Korea Opera Festival set for May 2-June 1.

In its fifth year, the monthlong festival will present five stage productions which organizers say will help deepen, broaden and diversify the local opera scene. Two free outdoor concerts, including a closing gala, are planned as part of the festival’s efforts to entice new opera fans.

The five works to be presented are Richard Strauss’ “Salome” by Korea Opera Group, Ji Seong-ho’s “Rutgarda” by Honam Opera Company, Giacomo Puccini’s “Madam Butterfly” by Gloria Opera Company, Camille Saint-Saens’ “Samson and Delilah” by Beseto Opera Company and June H. Lim’s “Soul Mate” by the state-run Korea National Opera Company. 
A scene from Korean opera “Soul Mate,” one of the five stage works to be presented at this year’s Korea Opera Festival (KNO)

“Rutgarda” and “Soul Mate” are all-Korean works, with music and librettos written by Koreans and performed by Korean singers.

“This year’s festival brings together operas from four countries ― two from Korea and one each from Italy, France and Germany. All are very unique and different,” Kim Kwi-ja, head of the festival’s organizing committee, said at a press conference at Seoul Arts Center in southern Seoul on Tuesday. All operas and concerts will be staged there.

Opening the festival is Korea Opera Group, bringing back the German masterpiece “Salome” to the Opera House 21 years after France’s Bastille Opera mounted its production at the opera house’s grand opening.

With music written by Richard Strauss and the plot based on Oscar Wilde’s dramatic adaptation of the biblical story, it is considered one of the most provocative operas, with its famous 12-minute “Dance of the Seven Veils” and a shocking final scene in which Salome, the female lead, kisses the severed head of John the Baptist. It runs three nights from May 2-4 and is not recommended for anyone under age 20.

“Rutgarda,” to be presented by Honam Opera Company from May 9-11, is a relatively new work that premiered last year in Jeonju. It revolves around the true story of Lutgarda Yi Sun-I and her husband John Yu Jung-cheol, who were martyred during a mass persecution of Korean Catholics in 1801.

Honam, which has staged nine new operas by Korean composers over the past 15 years, boasts that “Rutgarda” could be representative Korean opera, mixing Korean traditional music and European formalism.

For three nights from May 16, Gloria Opera Company will take the stage with its production of “Madam Butterfly,” one of the most beloved Italian operas starring an Asian character.

Directed by Daniele De Plano, a former artistic director of the Puccini Festival in Italy, the opera tells the tragic love story of the Japanese geisha Cio-Cio-san and American naval officer Pinkerton. Sopranos Christina Park and Kim Eun-joo will play Cio-Cio-san, aka Madam Butterfly. Tenors David Sotgju and Jeon Byeong-ho will take the role of Pinkerton. The music will be conducted by Marco Balderi.

Beseto Opera Company is presenting the French opera “Samson and Delilah” from May 23-25.

“‘Samson and Delilah’ is a costly production, as it requires a choir of over 80 people and some 30 dancers on top of opera singers. That’s why it has not often been performed here,” said Kang Hwa-ja, head of Beseto Opera, who is at the helm of the production.

It has teamed up with the State Opera of Prague for this production, bringing the Czech company’s conductor-in-residence Jiri Mikula and singer Miquelangelo Cavalcanti to join its international cast and crew.

The Korea National Opera is presenting its production of “Soul Mate” by June H. Lim from May 31-June 1.

“Soul Mate,” a hilarious comedy depicting traditional Korean wedding ceremonies and customs, is one of the most successful Korean operas. It premiered in 2006 at the Frankfurt Opera House under the name “Der Hochzeitstag (The Wedding)” and was critically acclaimed for having an ideal blend of Korean culture and European formalism.

The production has beefed up its dramatic elements with the help of a team of thespian professionals: director Seo Jae-hyung and playwright Han Areum.

In two outdoor concerts to be held on May 17 and 24, top opera singers will sing famous opera arias.

Tickets range from 10,000 won to 200,000 won. For ticket purchases, call (02) 580-1300 or visit www.sacticket.co.kr.

For more information about the festival and its other programs, visit www.koreaoperafestival.com.

By Lee Sun-young (milaya@heraldcorp.com)

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