Arts center celebrating 10 years with ‘La Traviata’

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Arts center celebrating 10 years with ‘La Traviata’

Celebrating the 10th anniversary since its opening, the Seongnam Arts Center is showcasing its production of “La Traviata” for the first time in seven years.

When deliberating which opera to select as the center’s representative production, CEO Chung Eun-sook said, “We settled on ‘La Traviata’ because it is the most-loved opera piece in the world. Its theme of pure and genuine love has touched the hearts of many and has continuously sparked interest over the centuries.” She spoke at a press conference last Thursday.

Composed by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, “La Traviata” is based on the 19th-century French novel “La Dame aux Camelia” by writer Alexandre Dumas. The story centers on the tragic love between a fatally ill courtesan, Violetta, and a young, naively romantic man, Alfredo.

But this particular production is getting a makeover, with a more contemporary setting and context.

“Though the opera is internationally considered an all-time classic, in Korea, it is still under the veil of being considered new and unfamiliar,” said director Chang Young-a. As such, they replaced the 19th-century Parisian setting with a contemporary one more familiar to viewers so that they can discern the underlying themes and messages more easily.

At the same time, this updated setting is suggested only subtly. In fact, the production has taken measures to not constrain itself with the 21st-century setting.

“Whereas Act 2, Scene 2 traditionally takes place at a grand Parisian salon, this time, it is at a pool party,” explained set, costume and prop designer Oh Yoon-gyoon. Swim attire, including swimsuits and shorts, has been arranged accordingly but with no particular or distinct style. It is kept basic so that the audience can easily identify the type of attire and therefore understand the context, Oh explained.

Ultimately, the production aims to demonstrate the opera’s timelessness. “Regardless of the setting … we want the audience to experience together the unforgiving world, the inescapable tragedies in life and the universality of human loneliness,” Chang said.

Veteran opera singers have joined this endeavor, including soprano Irina Lungu as Violetta, alto Chung Ho-Yoon as Alfredo and baritone You Tito as Alfredo’s father, Giorgio. Each singer has previously played these roles numerous times in various productions.

This production marks the 110th time Lungu is playing the role of Violetta. “I will never get tired of performing Violetta,” she said. “My Violetta changes for every production, including this new one … but all of my Violettas mean so much to me because they are always so real and true.”

“La Traviata” will be staged Thursday to Sunday, at 7:30 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. on weekends, at the Seongnam Arts Center opera house. Tickets range from 50,000 won ($44) to 220,000 won. For more information, call (031)-783-8000 or visit www.snart.or.kr.

BY YOON HAY-SUNG [estyle@joongang.co.kr]
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