New traditional theater to open in central Seoul

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New traditional theater to open in central Seoul


Left: Performers prepare for the “Pre & Free” traditional music festival to celebrate the opening of the Seoul Donhwamun Traditional Theater. Right: The traditional-style theater is located near Changdeok Palace in central Seoul. [SEJONG ARTS CENTER]

The city of Seoul has launched the Seoul Donhwamun Traditional Theater, a new place to enjoy Korean traditional music near Changdeok Palace.

Before it begins operations in September, the theater is celebrating its successful launch with a marathon of concerts under the title “Pre & Free.”

Donhwa Gate holds historical significance as the main gate of Changdeok Palace, and it was built during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). In order to rejuvenate traditional culture near the palace, Seoul started planning the theater in 2013 by turning the parking lot area into a cultural spot in front of Changdeok Palace.

“Pre & Free” offers a set of performances that incorporate a wide spectrum of traditional music. A total of 28 performances with modern touches prepared by young artists as well as the classics of traditional music will resonate through the theater’s music hall from June 9 to July 23.

“With these performances in the festival, we aim to assure the potential of our theater by experimenting with adopting performances of various forms, such as lecture concerts or brunch concerts,” said Sejong Arts Center in a press release. The arts center is operating the new theater.

Seventeen teams were selected in advance to perform at the festival among the 128 teams that applied for it in April.

The streak of performances starts with the sound of a haegeum, which is a traditional instrument that consists of two strings. Lee Seung-hee will play the instrument at 8 p.m. during the first two days of the festival.

Next is a performance by Lee Ji-hye, who plays the gayageum, another string instrument that is frequently used in Korean traditional music. She not only plays the instrument but also composes unique traditional music. In the performance, she will only play the songs she has composed under the title “Dagagada.” The show starts at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on June 11.

On June 18 and 19, Geuk Ak Mu Do, a group that plays modern-day traditional music, will perform. They will show the combination of traditional and modern instruments in the form of plays.

In addition, the Sookmyung Gayageum Orchestra will showcase their wonderful harmony in July 7 at 2 p.m. They have become even more famous since they performed at the G20 conference, which was held in 2010.

On July 22, another team of gayageum players will take to the stage, known as Chunhogaram. They are unique in their composition of members, as they are all men which is rather uncommon for this instrument.

From June 27 to July 3, visitors can participate in the events in which amateur players can perform their own music after receiving special lessons from Kim Jeong-seung, the chief artistic director of the theater.

While there are not many art centers specially built for traditional music in Seoul, the theater plans to take a more friendly approach to the public with various types of performances.

All tickets cost 3,000 won each. A schedule of events is available at the official website of the theater. For more information, visit (Korean only) or call (02) 3210-7001~2.

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