NCCK to open with foreigner-friendly ‘L’Orfeo’

By Korea Herald

Nonverbal, subtitled cultural productions on the rise in Seoul

  • Published : Sept 21, 2016 - 17:06
  • Updated : Sept 21, 2016 - 17:06

Greek mythologies will mesh with the sounds of modern pansori in the National Changgeuk Company of Korea’s upcoming 2016-2017 season opening production of “L’Orfeo.”

Directed by Lee So-young, who was behind last year’s powerful pansori musical “Song of the Red Cliff,” the upcoming Korean rendition of the historical production is steering clear of classic operatic vocals. Instead, audiences can enjoy Lee’s changgeuk -- traditional Korean opera -- re-envisioned with the story’s contemporary twist on pansori, or traditional Korean narrative singing.

Stripped of traditional Korean costumes -- the typical garb worn for pansori performances -- the leads are a young, contemporary couple. Professing their love to one another in song, the vocals are not full-blown traditional singing, but rather feature a pleasantly artistic hint of pansori’s distinctive vibrato, giving the show a fresh perspective that is sure to appeal to an audience of all ages and nationalities.

One of the world’s earliest known operas, “L’Orfeo” is the tale of a man who heads to the underworld in search of his wife Eurydice, who died from a poisonous snakebite. However, the story takes a dramatic twist when Orfeo decides to break his promise with the god of the underworld.

“L’Orfeo” will be staged at the Haeoreum Grand Theater in Seoul from Sept. 23 to 28 with performances starting at 8 p.m. weekdays and 3 p.m. on weekends. Ticket prices range from 20,000 won ($18) to 70,000 won. 

A scene from the National Changgeuk Company of Korea’s upcoming modern-day pansori production of “L’Orfeo.” (National Theater of Korea)

In an effort to attract a more international audience, the National Theater of Korea, of which the Naitonal Changgeuk Company of Korea is a member, not only provides English online booking and theater guides on their homepage, the theater is continuing to make greater strides by providing English subtitles for select performances, including the upcoming production of “L’Orfeo.”

Foreigner-friendly theaters

With the continued rise of internationally collaborative arts projects, performances and festivals, many Seoul stages have been seeing a steady influx of foreigner-friendly productions.

For those looking to experience more Korean culture-centric or comical contemporary performances, the list of choices is longer than ever -- including longtime running nonverbal shows such as “Nanta” “Fanta-Stick” and “Jump,” which are usually at the top of foreigners’ lists.

Moreover, expats living in the capital city or visitors from abroad can now find themselves with more and more options when planning an evening at the theater. The Korea Tourism Organization “K-Performance” homepage also allows reservation and purchase of tickets in English, Chinese and Japanese.

A scene from the National Changgeuk Company of Korea’s upcoming modern-day pansori production of “L’Orfeo.” (National Theater of Korea)

One popular performance without a language barrier is “Youll,” by the Jeongdong Theater. The iconic theater is currently running its latest modern-day cultural production from Tuesday through Sunday until the end of the year. Created with foreign audiences in mind, the action-packed performance is a hodgepodge of traditional Korean pansori and dancing, coupled with high-flying martial arts and ballet.

Inspired by “King of Baking, Kim Takgu,” a Korean TV series that gained huge popularity at home and now airs across 12 Asian countries, the “Pang Show” musical performance is also bringing new fun and laughter to a global audience through universal, nonverbal comedy.

The show reenacts several famous scenes from the TV drama and features b-boying, acrobatics, hip-hop and live percussion performances.

Other “must-see” considerations include longtime running live modern culture shows “Bibap,” “B-boy Kung” and “Sachoom.”

By Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com)