Korean opera finds itself at a crossroads
Indeed, opera is an expensive performing art to stage. Seventy years have passed since Korea was first introduced to this western art form and despite great achievements and developments over the years, such as producing internationally renowned sopranos including Sumi Jo, Hong Hei-kyung and Shin Youngok, Korea’s operatic world is still in a bind, not knowing how to attract more people to costly performances while still being able to cover the costs of putting on a quality show.
“The quality of a production realistically shows how much money has been put into it,” said Chung Chan-hee, chairman of the Korea Opera Company Association. “A 10-billion-won production looks like a 10-billion-won production. What I’m trying to say is that there’s no money being wasted and that it is really expensive, yet it is difficult for opera producers to cut back on production costs to lower ticket prices as it is directly connected to the work’s quality.”
Opera industry insiders say that is important for the government to create more friendly policies for opera producers while they themselves continue to make efforts to educate audiences and provide quality performances.
“The current policy of simply providing funds to works that fit into the criteria drawn up by the government causes opera producers to focus on creating works that deal with historical and heroic issues that appeal to the government,” said Tak Kye-seok, head of the Korea Arts Critics Association.
To help break the preconception many Koreans have that opera is awkward, this year’s opera works have been reinterpreted to be more familiar to modern Koreans.
For example, Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice,” which will be staged by Seoul Opera Ensemble during the festival, has been revised “so that this Baroque opera can be more accessible to Korean audiences,” said Jang Soo-dong, executive artistic director of the company.
Other works include, Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” by La Bella Opera; Korean opera “Yeo Wu Djeon” by Nuova Opera Company; Opera Gala by the Korea National Opera; Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” by Ulsan Singers Opera; and another Korean opera based on a folk tale “Heungbu and Nolbu” by the Korea Arts Group.
For more information, call (02) 580-1300 or visit www.koreaoperafestival.com.
BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [firstname.lastname@example.org]