Valkyries ride into Seoul as the Ring makes its debutBrunhilda has come to Korea. She, the valkyries, Seigfried and the rest of gang are in town to perform the “Ring of the Nibelung,” a series of four epic operas composed by Richard Wagner and known commonly as the “Ring Cycle.” All 14 hours of it will be performed in seoul by the Mariinsky Theatre’s opera company and its general director and conductor, Valery A. Gergiev, 52.
“I’m really happy to present the full Ring Cycle in Korea for the first time,” said the Russian conductor, at a press conference in a Seoul hotel Thursday evening.
Because of the sheer length of the opera, it can be a difficult and risky project for a theater to take on. Perhaps for that reason, it is the first time the Russian troupe will perform the Ring Cycle in Asia. German and Korean subtitles will be provided; the opera will be sung in Russian.
The performance of the German opera will be spread out over four days at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, central Seoul. The opera’s length doesn’t take into account the break times for set changes, which total three-and-a-half hours ― the longest of which takes 50 minutes. The Rheingold, the first and shortest opera, takes two hours, and the Gotterdammerung, the last and longest, takes up to five hours.
Mr. Gergiev said the production was unusual because it was made entirely by Russians; only the instructors were German.
“Probably10 years from now, the full Ring Cycle could be made entirely by Koreans,” Mr. Gergiev said. But he warned that doing so would require an enormous amount of training, experience, strength, energy and talented singers.
Mr. Gergiev has a number of titles. He is the principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the principal guest conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, and artistic director of St. Petersburg’s annual Stars of the White Nights festival.
“I once conducted in Amsterdam at 1:15 p.m. and flew to New York to conduct at Carnegie Hall at 9 p.m. on the same day,” he said.
He isn’t slacking during his time in Seoul, either. Besides the Ring Cycle, he and his orchestra will give a concert with the renowned violinist Chung Kyung-wha twice; they gave one yesterday and will do another on Sept. 28. He will also give a “present” to Korean youngsters by conducting Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite.
When asked where his power and energy comes from, he said he knows his work is very tough, but he loves doing it. He added that playing soccer gives him the endurance necessary to do so many performances.
When asked how he intended to do a performance with Ms. Chung, whom he has never worked or rehearsed with, Mr. Gergiev said he could do so because the pieces they would do were well-known works and had been done many times by both he and Ms. Chung.
“Although I met him for the first time today, I believe that we can make magic, and I’m very curious how it will turn out,” said Ms. Chung, who was also at the press conference.
by Park Sung-ha
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