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Korea Opera Festival returns

Five opera companies to highlight Verdi’s 200th anniversary and original Korean operas

By Korea Herald

Published : April 23, 2013 - 19:50

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Throughout May until early June, the Korea National Opera and four private opera companies are staging three signature works of Verdi and two Korean operas at Seoul Arts Center as part of the fourth Korea Opera Festival.

Aimed at enhancing the overall quality and the public’s appreciation of opera, which is widely perceived to be limited to a specific demographic, the organizers are gearing up to offer familiar yet fresh repertoires.

“It is not an easy job to stage an opera since it is a comprehensive form of art ranging from music and drama to dancing and more. We hope that the festival will allow wider public access to opera. We arrived at our lineup with the view to mark the 200th anniversary of Verdi’s birth and to show where Korean opera stands today,” said Kim Gwi-ja, head of the festival organizing committee, at a press conference held on Tuesday in Seoul.

“La Traviata,” one of the most popular operas of all time composed by Verdi, will open the festival on May 10-12.

“We have invited Adalberto Tonini, who has successfully staged the same piece at the Bolshoi in January, to conduct the Seoul Philharmonic. World-class singers including Park Mi-ja and Kang Mi-sung as Violetta as well as Na Seung-seo as Alfredo will bring out what is believed to be the closest to the original Verdi atmosphere in Korea,” said Choi Seung-u, director of the Chosun Opera Company, which is staging the production.
A scene from “Tcheo Yong,” which will be staged June 8-9 at Seoul Arts Center. (Korea National Opera) A scene from “Tcheo Yong,” which will be staged June 8-9 at Seoul Arts Center. (Korea National Opera)

A lesser known of the Verdi operas, “La Forza del Destino,” will be staged on May 17-19 by the Seoul Opera Ensemble. Art director Jang So-dong said the piece was groundbreaking for Verdi and Italians and that he expects the piece to make Koreans’ hearts pound.

“When Verdi wrote the piece, Italy had just gotten out of the influence of Habsburg Austria and the composer thought it was time he could show true Italian opera style in contrast to his lifelong rival, Wagner from Germany. I think the true Verdi style was established after this piece,” Jang said.

“Rigoletto,” the opera that first brought Verdi commercial success, will be staged by the Noble Art Company from May 24-26. The production will feature baritone Kim Dong-kyu in the leading role of Rigoletto while Italian conductor Angelo Inglese will lead the Seoul Philharmonic.

“We have hired a drama specialist to put extra attention on the drama and the flow,” said Shin Seon-seop, director of the company.

The Korea Opera Company will stage a local opera, “Sohn Yang-won,” from May 31-June 2. It depicts the life of “atomic bomb of love” Sohn, a Protestant pastor devoted to serving Hansen’s disease patients. Sohn adopts a man who killed his two sons and looks after him till death.

“In this world where selfishness and individualism are rampant, the spirit of Sohn is what we all need,” said Lee Ki-kyun, director of the company.

The Korea National Opera will close the festival June 8-9 with “Tcheo Yong,” an original Korean opera based on the myth of Cheo Yong, a mythical character of the Silla era (B.C. 57-A.D. 935). He arrived in Korea as the son of the dragon god, but settled down as a human after falling in love with a mortal woman.

Fringe programs will be offered on May 4, 11, 17 and 28 at Shinsegae Plaza next to the center entrance. Ticket prices range from 10,000 won to 200,000 won. A 50 percent discount is offered to those who book their tickets early. For more information, call (02) 580-1300 or visit www.koreaoperafestival.com.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)