National Opera’s new director ready to serve
Three months before the Korea National Opera was set to present its final performance of the year, it got a new executive director.
Kim Eui-joon was named the new KNO chief in July after having previously served as the executive director of the LG Art Center.
Last night, he presided over the opening of the company’s final production of the season, Giuseppe Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (“A Masked Ball”), which runs until Sunday. The opera is based on the play “Gustave III” (1833) by French playwright Eugene Scirbe, which was inspired by the historic assassination of King Gustav III.
Although he is the first executive director without any opera experience, Kim said he is ready to offer “whatever support is necessary” and that he’ll “be looking for advice from experts” to help him run the organization. He says his first priority will be to create a better working environment for members of the company.
“The more pride and joy they have in their work, the more they will think of the KNO as an organization that is worthy of dedicating their lives to,” he said in an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily last week.
The following are excerpts from the interview and from a press conference last month.
Q. Your first opera as head of the KNO is “A Masked Ball.” How well do you know the piece?
A. It was actually the second opera I’d ever seen. I saw it around 1995 at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. I had the ticket to the performance before I left for New York, but after struggling to check in to my hotel after the long flight, I thought I wouldn’t be able to devote my full attention to the performance. But to my surprise, I couldn’t not pay attention. All I could think was how could a performance be so grandiose and so moving at the same time. I especially loved the chorus. The details have faded in my mind, but I still remember the echoing voices of the chorus. I guess it is fate that the same opera would be my first with the KNO.
It seems like there are many things to do. The 200th anniversary of the birth of Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi is in 2013, so we plan to present something to celebrate the birth of these two great composers. And as you know, the KNO also invited China’s National Center for the Performing Arts to perform in Korea last year. [The company collaborated with the KNO to present “Turandot” in anticipation of the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the countries in 2012.] We are now talking about the final details on the KNO performing in China next year. There is a lot more to come next year, since the KNO will be celebrating its 50th anniversary.
You are the first KNO executive director without an opera background. How will you deal with the artistic process?
I think I’ve been asked to focus more on the hardware of the organization than the software of it. So I’m going to try to organize things.
I’m planning to hire experienced artistic directors, but I’m still debating about how I’ll manage the system - whether we’ll have one artistic director or many. Although I’m concerned that too many opinions will hinder the artistic process, I’m also concerned about the operas being too similar if the artistic director is the same.
You already have experience running an organization through your time as the executive director of the LG Art Center. What were your main duties there?
I spent a lot of time researching the productions the center would present. I wanted to show things that other centers were not presenting.
How involved do you expect to be in programming at the KNO?
I would say it’s risky for me to suggest something right now. I’d like to see the classics translated in new ways, I’d also like to do some creative productions and follow the latest opera trends. But since I have less experience working in opera, I’ll be looking for advice from experts. I’ll take as many opinions as possible to help me make the final decisions.
How do you think your previous experience will help you in running this organization?
I’ve been working continuously with people in dance or theater. I also think I have a pretty good network of people who are leading other art centers and opera houses. I’ve actually known Richard Evans, the chief executive of the Sydney Opera House, for a long time. These networks will come in handy in my work with the KNO.
What do you see as your most important task going forward?
First of all, each member of the KNO needs to feel a greater sense of affiliation with and pride in the organization they are working for.
Each of them represents the organization, and the more pride and joy they have in their work, the more they will think of the KNO as an organization that is worthy of dedicating their lives to. Since most of my career has been focused on management, I’m hoping I can change the work environment here to a more exciting and lively one.
I’m more like a guest in this organization and everyone else is the masters. So I will be the person standing behind the curtain, ready to offer whatever support is necessary for the stage.
*“A Masked Ball” will be at the Seoul Arts Center Opera Theater until Sunday. Performances start at 7:30 p.m. today and tomorrow and at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets range from 10,000 won to 150,000 won. Go to Nambu Bus Terminal Station, line No. 3, exit 5. Call (02) 586-5363, or visit www.nationalopera.org.
By Lee Sun-min [firstname.lastname@example.org]