On the Centennial of Verdi's Death, A Missed Chance to Widen HorizonsThis year will be the 100th anniversary of the death of Giuseppe Verdi, the Italian composer who died in 1901. His operas will be remembered through various memorial events held around the world.
Korea is no exception. Many of the nation's best opera companies will stage a Verdi festival in honor of the composer. Most of the performances that are planned, however, have been criticized for a lack of novelty. The operas to be staged this year in Korea are the composer's most famous works, the standard repertoire that has been proven to draw ticket sales. Several Korean companies are even staging the same operas.
Among Verdi's popular operas, "La Traviata" is the one most often performed in Korea, 65 times, followed by "Rigoletto" at 28 performances. The centennial anniversary is a rare occasion to expose audiences to the composer's extensive repertoire. Yet it is a shame that many of Korea's opera companies persist on showing only the most well-known of Verdi's operas.
"La Traviata" will be staged in April by the National Opera Company of Korea, and then again in September by the Korea Opera Group. "Rigoletto" will also be staged in April by the Gloria Opera Company. "Un Ballo in Maschera," which has been performed five times already in Korea, will be featured again this spring by the Hanuri Opera Company, and by the Seoul Arts Center in the fall. Only "Simon Boccanegra," which will be performed by the National Opera Company of Korea in April, will be making its national debut.
Many of Verdi's works have not yet been seen by Korean viewers. "I Lombardi alla Prima Crociata," "Les Vepres Siciliennes," "Stiffelio," "La Battaglia di Legnano" and "Attila" have never been performed in Korea, and "Ernani," "Falstaff," "Macbeth" and "Luisa Miller" have been staged just once each.
Unlike other countries that will bring attention to Verdi's earlier works to commemorate his death, Korea continues to produce only a handful of the composer's most famous operas.
It is understandable that Korean opera producers might prefer the works that will guarantee a profit over unknown works. But the producers should be more creative and look for ways to reduce production costs rather than playing it safe by repeatedly staging the obvious favorites. A concert-style opera without any fancy stage sets or expensive costumes might be the necessary fresh start.
The progress of Korea's opera companies depends on their willingness to be challenged and grow creatively. Otherwise, their productions will continue to lack in inspiration.