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Rare French, Czech, Chinese shows coming to Seoul

The World Festival of National Theaters to kick off with Korea’s pansori opera in fall

National theaters from nine countries including France, the Czech Republic and China will come to Seoul this fall to participate in the 5th World Festival of National Theaters, the organizer said Tuesday.

“Coming into the fifth year, we can say the festival is still at a development stage. But there will be as many as 30 works from nine countries this year,” said Lim Youn-churl, president of the National Theater of Korea, at a press conference in Seoul.

“The noticeable difference in the festival this year from the previous ones is that there will be many dramas this time. One of the most remarkable works will be a drama by Comdie-Franaise, which will perform in Seoul for the first time in 23 years,” he said.

Comdie-Franaise, one of the few state theaters in France, boasts a long history. Founded in 1680, the theater performed in Korea in 1988 for the Seoul Olympic Games.
A scene from “The Imaginary Invalid” by Comdie-Franaise (Cosimo Mirco Magliocca National Theater of Korea)
A scene from “The Imaginary Invalid” by Comdie-Franaise (Cosimo Mirco Magliocca National Theater of Korea)

The troupe will stage “The Imaginary Invalid,” a three-act piece by French comedy writer Molire, from Oct. 14 to Oct. 16 at the National Theater of Korea’s Main Hall, Hae.

The performance will be part of the French theater’s Asia tour and will be sponsored by Hyundai Card as the financial company’s culture project No. 4, Lim said.

Another interesting show is “The Makropulos Case,” a mystery drama by National Theater Prague, scheduled at the same venue from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1. Based on the play by Czech playwright Karel apek, famous American director Robert Wilson reproduced the work with the Czech national theater’s actress Sona Cervena using avant-garde theater techniques on lighting, sounds, images and rhythms.

China’s Liaoning Ballet is to stage contemporary ballet work “The Last Emperor,” on Sept. 20-21 at the same venue. 
A scene from ballet “The Last Emperor” by Liaoning Ballet (National Theater of Korea)
A scene from ballet “The Last Emperor” by Liaoning Ballet (National Theater of Korea)

The ballet company was invited by Australia for a tour in June to celebrate the Year of Chinese Culture in Australia. The ballet performance was designated as China’s national cultural brand, along with “Red Lantern” by the National Ballet of China and “The White-haired Girl” by the Shanghai Ballet Company.

Based on the movie “The Last Emperor” (1987), the ballet work chronicles the life of China’s last emperor Puyi.

Liaoning Ballet and Germany’s Stuttgart Ballet collaborated in the production, Lim explained.

Meanwhile, the festival will officially kick off with “Mr. Rabbit and the Dragon King,” a Korean traditional pansori opera directed by German opera director Achim Freyer.

“A long history of 5,000 years and this ‘young’ 77-year-old have met to create a large-scale work. I will make sure that the music and actors’ lines can precisely match,” Freyer said.

Yoo Young-dai, artistic director of the National Changgeuk Company of Korea, said the pansori opera will show how authority of the Dragon King and the people, symbolized by Mr. Rabbit, clash and how Mr. Rabbit eases the tension using his wisdom.

“Mr. Rabbit and the Dragon King,” which will be staged Sept. 8 -11 at the Main Hall, Hae, will be performed at Wuppertal Buhnen in Germany on Dec. 22-23.

The National Orchestra of Korea is to premier “Part of Nature” in September which will be composed in the form of concerto grosso by Jeong Il-yeon. Concerto grosso refers to a form of baroque music written for a small group of soloists and a full orchestra together.

The participating countries in the festival are Korea, Spain, Thailand, India, China, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, France and Belgium. The festival will also feature 18 local performing arts.

Tickets mostly range from 20,000 won to 100,000 won. VIP package, priced at 170,000 won, includes tickets for “The Imaginary Invalid,” “The Makropulos Case,” “The Last Emperor” and “Mr. Rabbit and the Dragon King.” Student package for the same four shows is priced at 60,000 won. The National Theater of Korea also offers “The World Festival In” card, which offers 40 percent discount for all 30 works during the festival with a membership fee of 20,000 won. For details, visit

By Kim Yoon-mi (
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Korea Herald daum