The show must go on at the National Theater of Korea
The National Theater of Korea (NTOK) has announced its schedule for the 2021-2022 National Repertory Season, which begins on Sept. 1. The new season will feature a total of 56 works, including 22 new ones as well as the theater’s hit repertoires presented by its three resident companies — the National Changgeuk Company of Korea, the National Dance Company of Korea and the National Orchestra of Korea.
Though the press event to introduce its lineup was moved online on July 14 following the government’s enforcement of stricter social distancing regulations, the theater said the “show must go on” at the National Theater of Korea in central Seoul.
Many of the performances that were scheduled to be staged during the previous 2020-2021 National Repertory Season were canceled as the theater had to close its doors during the worst periods of the coronavirus. But according to the theater, the upcoming season will be carried out with seating plans that abide by social distancing guidelines.
The newly renovated Haeoreum Theater will also reopen with the kick off of the upcoming season. The Haeoreum Theater, which was built in 1973, underwent major renovations in October 2017. After more than three years of remodeling, the theater finally revealed its new face to the public on May 18. The theater is now equipped with a state-of-the-art acoustic system as well as the latest auditorium design and a new lobby.
The National Orchestra of Korea will be the first group to perform on the new stage, opening the 2021-2022 season with “Sound of Millennium, Rebirth” on Sept. 1. Pansori (traditional narrative singing) master Ahn Sook-seon will accompany the orchestra to celebrate the official reopening of Haeoreum Theater.
New works that are worth marking your calendars for include, “The Show: Heungbo” presented by the National Changgeuk Company from Sept. 15 to 21. “The Show: Heungbo” is a modern interpretation of “Heungboga,” a changgeuk written and directed by Hur Kyu, who is known as a pioneer of Korean performing arts, in 1998. The modern take on one of Korea’s five surviving stories of pansori will be overseen by director Kim Myeong-gon, while world-renowned artist Choi Jeong-hwa takes part as a scenographer to create a “never-before-seen changgeuk performance.” Ahn will be composing the pansori for the new work.
The National Dance Company of Korea will also be presenting several new works including “Five.” It is the company’s artistic director Sohn In-young’s first choreography since she took office in November 2019.
According to Sohn, the work attempts to express the five elements — metal, wood, water, fire and earth — through the movements of the dancers. Every member of the company will dance on stage, “guiding audiences into a world where humans and nature seek harmony and balance through wisdom.”
“Five” was scheduled to open the previous season in September but was canceled due to the pandemic. It will premiere this season on Sept. 2 and run until Sept. 5 at the Daloreum Theater.
If the previous edition focused on strengthening NTOK's role as a representative national arts organization in Korea by organizing more joint shows between the three resident companies, the theater said the goal of the upcoming season is to actively seek ways to collaborate with local and overseas art organizations.
“Through diverse collaboration projects, we hope to provide rich programs for our audiences and create a performance environment where we can coexist with other art organizations as a state-run venue,” said Kim Chul-ho, director of the NTOK.
Other local arts troupes like the Korea National Opera, the Korean National Ballet, National Chorus of Korea, Korean Symphony Orchestra, Gyeonggi Sinawi Orchestra and the Universal Ballet Company, will take the stage at the National Theater of Korea.
As for overseas troupes, NTOK decided to introduce some new performances through NT Live — a broadcasting project of world-class theater. NT Live has been receiving high praise for not only allowing audiences in Korea to enjoy world-class theater but also presenting them in high quality.
In October, four performances will air in Haeoreum Theater, including Stephen Sondheim’s legendary musical “Follies” (Oct. 2, Oct. 6-7), Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play “Cyrano de Bergerac,” which had its Korean premiere via NT Live last October (Oct. 2-3, Oct. 6), Internationaal Theater Amsterdam’s modern version of Sophocles’ “Oedipus” (Oct. 8-9) and French play “Les Fourberies de Scapin” (Oct. 9-10). All NT Live performances will be provided with Korean and English subtitles.
Two overseas troupes will visit Korea to premiere their works here.
German theater company Volksbuhne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz Berlin will present one of its new works "Ultraworld," directed by Susanne Kennedy, from Nov. 25 to 27. The beginning of the performance will feel like logging onto a computer game, according to NTOK.
"The characters who are trapped in 'Ultraworld,' a virtual reality inside the game, keep getting tested, which gradually alters their behaviors. Frank, the hero in the game, will have to break away from this repetitive situation."
Another performance is Portuguese director and playwright Tiago Rodrigues' play “Sopro," which will be staged from June 17 to 19. “Sopro,” which means “breath” in Portuguese, “interweaves extracts from classical works with moments taken from backstage life, shedding light on the theater’s unseen individuals.”
“For the past nine years through the theater’s Repertory Season, we have developed a total of 115 new works and 68 of them were able to become part of NTOK’s repertoire,” said an official from the theater. “We are proud of some of the works that were also performed on world-renowned stages, contributing to the promotion of the excellence of Korean traditional culture. We will continue to make such efforts as a national theater.”
Package tickets are being sold through the website of the National Theater of Korea, and individual tickets can also be purchased for each performance. For more information, visit www.ntok.go.kr or call (02) 2280-4114.
BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [email@example.com]