Opera company deals with the devil in ‘Faust’

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Opera company deals with the devil in ‘Faust’


Woo-kyung Kim stars in the title role in a production of “Faust” presented by the Semperoper in Dresden, Germany, in 2010. Kim will also star in the opera in a production staged this weekend by the Korea National Opera. Provided by Korea National Opera

Many of us long to be young again. But is it worth the price of your soul?

This is the basic conundrum faced by the protagonist in French composer Charles-Francois Gounod’s “Faust,” which has seen many incarnations since it first appeared in print in 16th century Germany.

This weekend, opera lovers will have a chance to contemplate the question when a production of Gounod’s “Faust” (1818-1893) is presented by the Korea National Opera at the Seoul Arts Center’s Opera Theater.

The production is based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s play of the same name about a man who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for youth and pleasure.

The story follows Faust, a scholar steeped in theology, philosophy, law and medicine, who has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge but believes that his studies have come to nothing while also denying him the opportunity to find love. When he reaches out for advice, he is visited by the devil, who offers to make him a king on earth if Faust later becomes the devil’s servant in hell.

The cast stars two opera veterans who will be appearing in Korea for the first time. Both stars were in Seoul to promote the show at a press conference at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents’ Club on Tuesday.


Samuel Ramey, left, and Woo-kyung Kim promote the opera “Faust” at a press conference on Tuesday. [YONHAP]

Samuel Ramey, a legendary American operatic bass, stars as the devil Mephistopheles, a role he has played in 200 of the 300 operas in which he has appeared throughout his career.

“I’ve spent three-quarters of my career singing the part of the devil. I spend much of my time being evil,” Ramey said.

The production also stars tenor Woo-kyung Kim, the first Korean to win first place at Operalia, The World Opera Competition, which was founded by renowned tenor Placido Domingo in 2004. Kim was also the first Korean to play Alfredo in “La Traviata” at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 2006.

“It’s been 11 years since I left my home country, so I’ve been very careful about choosing the piece for my Korean debut,” Kim said. “And I’m very honored that the Korea National Opera wanted me to play the part in this production.”

Lee So-young, the artistic director of the Korea National Opera, said that after seeing Kim perform as Faust in Bordeaux, France, in 2006, she decided that she would cast him in her own version of “Faust.”

This is the second in the Korea National Opera’s “Goethe’s Faust” series. The first was a production of Italian composer Arrigo Boito’s “Mefistofele,” which was presented here last October. The work was the only opera completed by Boito, who is better known as Verdi’s librettist.

Although both productions are based on Goethe’s play, the productions differ from one another in that Boito’s version is told from the perspective of the devil and Gounod’s centers on Faust.

Ramey, who has recreated the role of the devil in many different productions, has a unique take on the two versions of the legendary character.

“Gounod’s devil is not as evil as Boito’s. He’s such a multifaceted character, very charming, fun, loving and seductive. It’s great fun to play the part,” Ramey said.

*“Faust” will be presented Friday to Sunday at the Seoul Arts Center’s Opera Theater. It starts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets range from 10,000 won ($8.96) to 150,000 won. Go to Nambu Bus Terminal Station, line No. 3, exit 5. For more information, call (02) 586-5282, or go to www.sac.or.kr.

By Lee Sun-min [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

Related Korean Article[노컷뉴스]

선과 악의 내기…프랑스 낭만 오페라 ‘파우스트’

한국인 테너 최초 美메트로폴리탄 데뷔 김우경, 국내 오페라 첫선

프랑스 작곡가 샤를 구노의 오페라 '파우스트'가 무대에 오른다.

국립오페라단(예술감독 이소영)은 괴테의 '파우스트'를 모티브로 한 오페라 '파우스트'로 서정성과 낭만적인 무대를 꾸민다.

특히 이번 공연에서는 한국인 테너 최초로 미국 메트로폴리탄의 주역 가수로 데뷔한 테너 김우경이 파우스트 역으로 국내 오페라 무대에 데뷔한다는 점이 눈에 띈다.

김우경은 2004년 한국인 테너 최초로 플라시도 도밍고 국제콩쿠르 1위를 수상했고, 2007년 '라 트라비아타'의 알프레도 역으로 한국인 테너 최초 뉴욕메트로폴리탄 무대의 주역을 맡아 세계의 주목을 받았다.

세계적인 거장 플라시도 도밍도는 김우경에 대해 “그의 테크닉은 완벽했고, 파우스트의 해석은 더 이상 그를 따를 사람이 없을 만큼 놀라운 무대였다”고 서정적이면서도 힘있고, 윤기 나는 그의 목소리와 여유롭고 자신감 넘치는 연기에 극찬했다.

아리아 '정결한 집'(Salut demeure chaste et pure) 등이 인상적인 오페라 '파우스트'는 프랑스 서정 오페라의 대표작으로 구노의 낭만주의적 예술성이 묻어난다. 비제의 '카르멘', 마스네의 '마농 등과 함께 프랑스 대표 오페라로 꼽히는 이 작품은 괴테의 '파우스트'를 모티브로 한 다른 작품들 못지않게 서정성과 우아함이 돋보인다.

오페라 '파우스트'는 16일, 18일~20일 예술의전당 오페라극장에서 공연된다.

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