A scene from the Korea National Opera’s 2006 “Soulmate,” an adaptation of the Korean novel “Wedding Day.” The work premiered in Frankfurt, Germany. / Courtesy of Korea National Opera
By Do Je-hae
The upcoming Korea Opera Festival will present home-grown works, alongside some of the world's best-loved masterpieces.
In its third year, the month-long event will start on May 6 with a gala performance of popular duets and arias at the opera theater of the Seoul Arts Center.
Participating companies include the state-funded Korea National Opera and four private opera companies _ New Seoul Opera Company, Grand Opera Company, Nuova Opera Company and Seoul Opera Company. They will present well-known works like "Les Contes d'Hoffmann," "La Traviata," "Tosca" and "Le Nozze Di Figaro."
It remains to be seen how well these low-budgeted troupes will deal with the multi-task of presenting a proper opera performance, where the staging, singing and acting are delivered with equal proficiency.
A key aim of the organizers is to increase the popularity of home-grown works, some of which will be presented by the Korea National Opera (KNO) to conclude the festival. The KNO will present 12 pieces it has created in the last 50 years to close the festival on June 7 and 8.
"I hope that not only famous European operas but also local creations will become more important to audiences through the gala shows," KNO Executive Director Kim Eui-joon said during a recent press conference in Seoul.
Since the 1980s, around 500 operas have been created here, but few have had a resounding impact. Most have failed to be staged on a regular basis. The 1980s were the heyday of local opera creations.
Performances of the KNO will include scenes from “Opera Chunhyang,” the first local opera produced in 1950 and “Prince Hodong." Both are inspired by folk stories of young lovers who become obstacles.
The KNO recently feted its 50 years with a production of Puccini’s tragic love story “La Boheme,” in collaboration with Chung Myung-whun’s Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO) accompanying a cast of established and up and coming vocalists.
Organizers called for more government support for promoting operas, underlining the lack of the policymakers' lack of interest in the genre compared to musicals or ballet.
"We received about 600 million won ($527,000) in state funding for the festival, but that is insufficient," Cho Chang-yeon, head of the festival's organizing committee said.
It has been 63 years since Korea staged its first opera ― Verdi’s tragic “La Traviata” ― in the heart of Myeong-dong. Since then, opera’s increasing popularity has led to the establishment of major opera festivals here in the 2000s. The Daegu Opera Festival was organized in 2003 as Asia’s first international opera festival.
Cho also mentioned special plans for the 2013 Korea Opera Festival.
"We will organize the festival to honor the 200th anniversary of the birth of Verdi," Cho said.
The New Seoul Opera Company will stage Mozart's "Le Nozze Di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro)" from May 11 to 13.
This will be followed by the Nuova Opera Company's "Les Contes d' Hoffmann (The Tale of Hoffmann)" by Offenbach from May 18 to 20, followed by Puccini's "Tosca," by the Grand Opera Company from May 25 to 27. The Seoul Opera Company will present Verdi's "La Traviata" from June 1 to 3.
Tickets range from 10,000 to 150,000 won. For more information, visit www.koreaoperafestival.com or call (02) 586-5285.