Friday, April 20, 2012

Chongdong Theater upgrates 'Miso'

Traditional musical blends new music, choreography

The Chongdong Theater, near Deoksu Palace in central Seoul, is the nation’s first and only theater devoted solely to traditional performances.

Local business conglomerates have displayed a tendency to promote Western arts, such as classical music, ballet or opera, rather than sponsor traditional arts.

So when the theater held a press conference Wednesday, around 30 reporters showed up to hear what Park Yong-maan, chairman of the Doosan Group, had to say about his new role in the theater.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism recently appointed the 57-year-old as chairman of the board of the Myeongdong Jeongdong Theaters Foundation for a three-year term.

However, Park failed to appear at the press conference as scheduled to announce the new version of the theater’s hit musical “Miso 3,” causing a stir among the press. He missed the chance to address the media but arrived later for a performance of the show that took place right after the press conference.

Chongdong Theater General Director Choi Jeong-im spoke about what it means to have Park as a partner.

“I believe his appointment reflects his affection for traditional culture. We have high hopes for Chairman Park’s contributions,” Choi said at the Chongdong Theater Wednesday. “He said that he would like to be an active supporter of our theater.”

Supporting traditional arts

Choi blamed school education for the general lack of support for traditional arts from the business sector.

“Large businesses have shunned promoting the genre, and I think this comes from their lack of knowledge. Our school curriculums do not devote time to traditional dance or music. Those who own large businesses tend to have an overseas education background and they seem to have more interest in Western arts.”

But now more conglomerates are taking notice of traditional arts, added Choi. “Some large banks, like Kookmin and Hana, are working with us.”

“Miso 3,” an adaption of the love story of Chunhyang, is the updated version of the 2011 “Miso 2: Silla, the Land of Gods.” The original “Miso: Love Songs from Chunhyang” was first staged in 2009 as the representative work of the theater.

“Previous versions of Miso somewhat deviated from the original tale, so we tried stick to the original. As for the score, we re-wrote about 80 percent of it,” said Kim Chung-han, the show’s artistic director.

The folktale of Chunhyang has been used in various genres of performing arts, including ballet and opera. It revolves around Chunhyang and Mongryong, who endure obstacles and jealous plots to finally marry.

The theater has staged 4,200 performances of “Miso” and attracted 720,000 visitors, of which over 85 percent were foreigners.
The show has been invited to major international events hosted in Korea. Organizers have staged the work in 110 cities of 65 countries.

“Ultimately, we would like to bring global recognition to Miso. We hope to stage it in global tourism capitals like Las Vegas,” Choi said. Choi said that she has been talking with relevant officials in Las Vegas to take the musical there.

“Miso” blends 10 different kinds of traditional dances, five traditional games and a wedding ritual into the storyline.

There are very few spoken lines throughout the performance, making it ideal for audiences of diverse nationalities. “Miso” is showing as an open run at the theater. Tickets range from 30,000 to 50,000 won.

For more information, call (02) 751-1500 or visit

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