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Korea National Opera’s new artistic director Yun Ho-gen pledges more Korean operas

Fans of opera can expect to see more Korean singers performing local productions.

Artistic Director of the Korea National Opera Yun Ho-gen pledged to introduce more Korean productions and original Korean operas during a press conference held in Seoul to promote the company’s upcoming “Manon.” Yun was appointed to the post on Feb. 9.

Yun, who started at the Stadttheater Gieseen in 1999, previously worked at the Kammeroper Frankfurt as well. He assisted conductor Daniel Barenboim at the Berlin State Opera and worked with conductors Simon Rattle and Zubin Mehta. In 2011, he directed the Deutsche Symphony Orchestra of Berlin in a recording. In Korea, Yun conducted several works including “The Magic Flute,” “Arriving on the Waters Like the Moon,” “Der Freischuetz” and “Faust.” Together with the Korea National Opera, Yun conducted “La Boheme.” 

The Korea National Opera's new artistic director Yun Ho-gen speaks at a press conference held in Seoul on Monday. (The KNO)
The Korea National Opera's new artistic director Yun Ho-gen speaks at a press conference held in Seoul on Monday. (The KNO)

Dismissing concerns about the lack of extensive experience in the Korean opera scene, Yun said his 12 years of experience overseas had triggered him to ask himself where Korean opera should be headed.

“While I was in Germany, my colleagues asked me what Korean opera was about. I was struck by my lack of knowledge of Korean opera. It was a turning point for me, and I began to rethink the identity (of myself and of Korean opera),” Yun said. “I do love German works. However, I will take the local audience’s taste into account in creating the KNO’s programs.”

Yun vowed to introduce more Korean operas and Korean singers. Over the years, the KNO has been criticized for focusing on bringing in productions and singers from abroad rather than nurturing the local opera infrastructure and talents as a state-led institution.

“It is obvious that the state-led opera company should cast more local singers,” said Yun. “The KNO will create stages where local singers can perform, while cooperating with private opera companies.”

Acknowledging the KNO’s crucial role and presence in the country’s opera scene, Yun said he would strike a balance in staging Korean productions between historically important ones and those that have never been performed in the country.

There are some 300 original Korean operas, though only 10 or fewer works continue to be performed, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Meanwhile, the KNO will stage “Manon,” Jules Massenet’s production that first premiered in 1884. The upcoming “Manon” performance will mark the second time it is being performed here. It had its Korean premiere in 1989.

Conductor Sebastian Lang-Lessing and French director Vincent Boussard have joined the production of Massenet’s opera, which is characterized by its unique musical and linguistic tonality. “Manon” will be staged from April 5 to 8 at Seoul Arts Center Opera House.

By Shim Woo-hyun (
Korea Herald Youtube