From Small Hall Come Operas That Are Bigger Than Life

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From Small Hall Come Operas That Are Bigger Than Life

The idea of watching an opera in a small hall may seem an anomaly to those who associate opera with a big stage, grand settings and lavish costumes. But attending a chamber opera can be an enchanting experience. The small hall ensures intimacy between the audience and the performers. The audience can observe the performance without binoculars and the singing can be appreciated up close.

The Seoul International Chamber-Opera Festival 2001 will be held between Wednesday and Mar. 25 at the Small Hall of the National Theater of Korea. This will be the third season of the festival, which is organized by the National Opera Company of Korea. This year's festival offers five operas by four Korean opera companies and one Japanese company, the Tokyo Chamber Opera Theater. Three of the operas will be staged in Korean for the first time.

Seoul Opera Ensemble will performed "Seoul*Boheme," which premiered in 1997 at the Main Hall of the National Theater of Korea. This Korean version of the Italian masterpiece is set in the early 1980s in Sinchon, Seoul. This is the second time "Seoul*Boheme" will be staged.

Gian Carlo Menotti's "The Old Maid and the Thief" is a favorite in Korea. It is interesting that Korean audiences - which often reject contemporary music - admire this opera, written in the 20th century. Menotti's work will be staged once again by Sejong Opera Company.

Ahn Hee Bok Opera Institute will present, for the first time in Korea, Franz Lehar's "The Count of Luxembourg," the story of love blossoming between a nobleman and a girl of humble background. Lehar is best known for "Gold and Silver," a waltz, but he also wrote some light operettas such as "The Merry Widow," "Gipsy Love," and "The Land of Smiles." Lehar was praised highly and even called the "successor to Johann Strauss," when "The Count of Luxembourg" premiered in Vienna, Austria, in 1909. "The Count" will be produced by Georg Bluml, featuring tenors Lee Yong-hoon and Jeong Ho-yoon, sopranos Lee Eun-soon and Kang Myung-sook and mezzo sopranos Kim Hyun-joo and Kim Ja-hee.

Tanaka Kin's "Kogetsuden," (in Korean, "Howeoljeon") produced by the Tokyo Chamber Opera Theater and Lee Kun-yong's "Spring and Spring Again," (in Korean, "Bom Bom Bom") produced by the National Opera Company of Korea will each make their Korean debut. Both works made their international debut at the New National Theatre of Tokyo last month. The Korean and Japanese singers - including Lee Hyun-jung, Misaki Kyoko, Choi Jin-ho and Oiwa Atsurou - take turns playing the major roles in "Kogetsuden," and "Spring and Spring Again." "Kogetsuden" will be performed in Japanese and "Spring and Spring Again" in Korean, which means that the performers will have to sing in other than their native tongue. These efforts by Korean and Japanese performers are quite new in the history of opera of both countries, and are considered very encouraging. Interchange between the two cultures is also evident in "Spring and Spring Again." Although it was produced by a Korean company, it is directed in the style of kyogen, a Japanese comic theater that is usually used to bring light relief to productions directed in noh, a more solemn Japanese performance style. The price of admission to performances ranges from 10,000 won ($8) to 20,000 won. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. on weekdays, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays and 4 p.m. on Sundays. For reservations, call Ticket Link at 02-1588-7890.

by Lee Jang-jik

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