An Italian opera experience closer to home

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An Italian opera experience closer to home


Above, Petruzzelli Theater presents “Madama Butterfly” at the Seoul Arts Center from Nov. 25 to 27. Provided by Sol’opera Company

Two of the most popular opera composers in Korea will pose a dilemma for opera fans at the end of this month, as “La Traviata” by Giuseppe Verdi and “Madama Butterfly” by Giacomo Puccini are being performed the same weekend at two different major theaters in Seoul. These two upcoming operas have Italy in common - and not just the fact that both composers are Italian. The production of “Madama Butterfly” was created in Italy and then invited to perform at the Seoul Arts Center, while the production of “La Traviata” was directed locally in Korea in 2008 and then exported to Italy later in the same year. The same production of “La Traviata” is coming back to the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts.

After the original production was praised by Italians for subtle Asian references, such as the way the moon ripples as it changes shape when it is reflected onto a chandelier, the Seoul Metropolitan Opera this year continues to accentuate those Asian sentiments as it tries to keep the European atmosphere.

“Little insinuations we used to recreate the social scenes on stage were actually seen as very Asian-inspired tools to many Italians,” said Kim Hwa-young, a public relations official for the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts. “And this time, as we are coming back to local theater, we are trying to make those Asian touches more visible.”

It first introduced its version of “La Traviata” back in 2008 as it presented the five most well-known operas of Verdi including “Rigoletto.” As “La Traviata” attracted the biggest audience, Seoul decided to bring it to Italy’s northeastern city of Trieste as a cultural exchange. The two performances the company offered in Italy were sold out and standing ovations followed after the curtain call.


The Seoul Metropolitan Opera presents “La Traviata,” which was first introduced in Korea in 2008. Provided by Sejong Center for the Performing Arts

The reason for this success, surprisingly, came from the SMO’s effort to present the production as vintage as possible to make it similar to the original premiere of “La Traviata” back in 1853. Considering the recent years’ opera trends going more modern and simple, the SMO’s went against the general tide.

While the SMO tries to recognize the Western classic with some Korean characteristics in it, another opera company in Korea is actually trying to bring Italy’s original production to the local theater. The Petruzzelli Theater in the southeastern Italian port city of Bari is visiting Korea at the end of November with its own production of “Madama Butterfly.”

Although Korea has seen many Italian theaters bring their operas here, this particular performance is garnering attention with the visiting executive director in charge of this opera production, Daniele Abbado.

He is the 2004 winner of the Abbiati Prize, one of the most prestigious music awards in Italy. The Sol’opera Company is working with the Petruzelli Theater to bring the opera to Korea. They expect to retrieve the Italian sentiment with the piece so that Koreans don’t have to go to Italy for a full operatic experience.

*“La Traviata” starts Nov. 24 and runs through Nov. 27 at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, Grand Theater. The performance starts at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, at 3 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, and at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Tickets range from 20,000 won to 120,000 won. To get there, go to Gwanghwamun Station, line No. 5. For more information, call (02) 399-1783~6, or go to

“Madama Butterfly” starts Nov. 25 and runs through Nov. 27 at the Seoul Arts Center Opera Theater. The performance starts at 8 p.m. on Friday, at 3 and 8 p.m. on Saturday and 2 and 7 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets range from 50,000 won to 340,000 won. To get to the theater, go to Nambu Bus Terminal, line No. 3, exit 5. For more call 1544-9373, or go to

By Lee Sun-min []
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