World’s top theater, right here at home

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World’s top theater, right here at home

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“The Tempest,” presented by the Contemporary Legend Theater of Taiwan. Provided by the organizers

Seeing theater performances from around the world isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

Sure, you can travel to cultural meccas abroad, spending gobs of money in the process, or try to catch the occasional visiting international performance when it’s on stage in Korea.

But over the next two months there’s a cheaper and less difficult way: Check out the World Festival of National Theaters, an annual event that brings to town top-notch actors and musicians who have made names for themselves in countries around the world, from Italy and France to Taiwan and Russia.

The three-year-old event has become a staple of Korea’s annual festival scene, providing an indispensable opportunity for local audiences to get diversified theater experiences.

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“Esmeralda,” presented by the Kremlin Ballet Theater of Russia, will be on stage from Oct. 8 to 10 at the National Theater of Korea. The performance is a ballet version of the popular French musical, “Notre Dame de Paris.”

While there are numerous theater festivals held in Korea annually, this one is perhaps the widest in scope, offering everything from dramas and operas to ballets and even classical music performances.

The World Festival of National Theaters initially focused primarily on dramas but expanded into other genres as part of its goal to widen cultural exchange between national theaters of different countries and enhance the global recognition of domestic performances. Lim Youn-chul, the chief executive officer of the National Theater of Korea, said at a press conference last week that the festival also aims to introduce foreign performances to Korean audiences.

This year’s event, organizers say, features more shows from more countries and has a heavier Asian presence. The festival, which started last Friday and runs through Nov. 4, features 25 performances from national theaters in nine countries under the theme, “Rediscovery of the Classics.” Spearheaded by the National Theater of Korea, the festival kicked off last Friday with “The Tempest,” created by the Contemporary Legend Theater of Taiwan.

The audience sure seemed pleased with the show. Kim Soo-jin, a Dogok-dong resident at the performance, characterized it as a “jaw-dropping experience.”

The next performance of note is “La Cagnotte,” a comical play presented by France’s National Theater of Strasbourg, which starts today and runs through Saturday.

Other highlights include “Holeulone,” by the Belgian troupe Dame de Pic; “Esmeralda,” presented by the Kremlin Ballet Theater of Russia; and “Rainbow” by the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The festival includes four performances by Korean troupes: “Three Sisters” by the National Drama Company, “Red Cliff” by the National Changgeuk Company, “Kaya” by the National Dance Company and “Original Concert” by the National Orchestra.

Original Concert includes four pieces, which the orchestra will perform at the closing ceremonies on Nov. 4.


By Yim Seung-hye Contributing writer [estyle@joongang.co.kr]



All productions will be performed at the National Theater of Korea and Myeong-dong Theater in downtown Seoul. Several performances are held each day.

Prices run from 30,000 won ($24.35) to 200,000 won. For more information, visit www.ntok.go.kr or call (02) 2280-4114~6.

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