‘DIX Commandements’ unpacks in Seoul

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‘DIX Commandements’ unpacks in Seoul

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Think “musical,” and images of New York’s Broadway or London’s West End come to mind. France, however, is not a major destination for nor an exporter of song-and-dance productions. The only French musical to have played in Korea was “Notre Dame de Paris,” put on early this year.
“Notre Dame” did well, though, and that might be one reason “Les DIX Commandements,” a French production based on the Old Testament, is coming to Korea next year.
A showcase performance of the musical was staged on Dec. 2 at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, in central Seoul. The show featured only six actors, who wore costumes and sang six songs. According to Lim You-jin, the president of Ujin Company, the show’s promotional agent, it cost 100 million won ($96,700) to bring only the six actors and the director to Seoul for one performance.
“Les DIX Commandements” is closer to opera than musical: it has no dialogue, only singing.
“The gestures of the actors on the stage are the dialogue,” said Elie Chouraqui, the director of the musical. He said he had considered including spoken parts in the musical but decided instead that the music, movement and actors’ physical expressions would be enough to keep the story moving.
One interesting addition to the show is its integration of live action and video. “I actually went to Egypt to film,” Mr. Chouraqui told the JoongAng Daily. “It gives the audience a window, open to the real world.”
Mr. Chouraqui is well-suited for the directorship. He has experience as a film director and has studied the Bible, ancient Hebrew and Egyptian history. He’s also very thorough. “I wanted to make [the musical] close to reality. I don’t want to see something wrong on my stage,” he said.
The composer and musical director for the score was Pascal Obispo, who in 1998 won the prestigious French musical award “Victories de la musique.”
He said that when he first decided to direct the musical about the story of Moses and the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses, everyone told him he was crazy. The story was heavy and the production would have to be massive: an orchestra, huge set, special effects and video screens. All these things combined take up a lot of room The set for the show in Korea fills 42 shipping containers and the production will cost an estimated 7.2 billion won.
The cast is both French and Italian. Moses is played by Sergio Moschetto, who like the rest of the cast was hired primary on the strength of his voice. Mr. Moschetto’s performed last month in Japan in front of a total of 130,000 showgoers over 24 performances.
Teaching the singers how to act was difficult, Mr. Chouraqui said, because they had had no dramatic training.
Mr. Chouraqui said that there are many French musicals, but few go on international tours. But if a musical can overcome cultural differences, any musical can succeed, he said, adding that “Les DIX Commandements” has a story that could be understood anywhere in the world.
When asked how French and Broadway musicals differed, Mr. Chouraqui said Broadway musicals were lighter and emphasize entertainment.
At the showcase, the audience seemed wowed by the costumes, especially those worn by Ahmed Mouici (playing Ramses) and Lidia Malgieri (playing Bithiah). Sonia Rykiel, a renowned designer and a good friend of Mr. Chouraqui, designed the stage costumes and accessories.


by Park Sung-ha

Les DIX Commandements is scheduled to run at Olympic Gymnastic Stadium from April 11, 2006 through May 9. Ticket prices have not yet decided. For more information, call (02) 512-7986.
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