‘Madam Ong’ recast as active independent woman

By Korea Herald
  • Published : May 20, 2014 - 20:41
  • Updated : May 20, 2014 - 20:41
The National Changguek Theater of Korea is presenting “Madame Ong” next month as the third performance of its seven-part changgeuk series in an effort to bring the beauty and uniqueness of traditional Korean performance to the public.

Changgeuk is a form of Korean traditional opera, performed as a play in pansori (Korean folk narrative) style. While pansori is performed by a solo singer, changgeuk involves many actors and vocalists, percussion music, and engaging plotlines to fit large theaters in the modern age.

The upcoming show is based on the pansori folktale “Byeongangsoe-jeon,” which has been known as an “adult folktale” for its obscene language and sexual content. 
A promotional image for the National Changgeuk Company of Korea’s upcoming show “Madame Ong.” (National Theater of Korea)

“The story has been overlooked in the past for the obscenity of expression,” said Kim Sung-nyo, the troupe’s artistic director. But the undercurrent beneath the plot deals with ordinary people’s lives, pains and sorrows in the late Joseon era,” she said. “Our goal is to regain the story’s true reputation through our performances.”

The story revolves around two main characters, Byeongangsoe and Ongnyo. In the original story, Ongnyo’s marriages fail as her husbands die one after the other. Even Byeongangsoe, who appeared to be a match made in heaven, dies after angering a “jangsaeng” (Korean traditional totem pole). Ongnyo represents the obedient, ill-fated women of the patriarchal Joseon era.

However, the plot will have a new twist in the upcoming performance. Ongnyo becomes the protagonist. She rejects her fate and takes a leap of development as a strong, independent woman who wages war against the jangsaeng to protect her husband.

“I also changed the ending a bit because the original plot was drawn out with all the death scenes. With the changes to the story, I am sure it will be lively and entertaining,” said director Ko Seong-woong, who is well known among the local theatrical circle for his humorous twists and creative interpretations.

“Madame Ong” counts as many “firsts” in the troupe’s history. Not only it is the first R-rated performance, but it is the first long-run show, with 23 total performances over 26 days. The show will take place from June 11 to July 6 at the Dal Hall of the National Theater of Korea. For ticket inquiry and more information, visit www.ntok.go.kr or call (02) 2280-4114~6.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)