Exterior of Naru Arts Center in Kwangjin-gu, northeastern Seoul.
By Bae Keun-min
In the cutthroat performing arts industry, it is hard for a small, low-budget theater complex like the Naru Arts Center to survive, especially when it's a late comer to the industry.
The Naru in Kwangjin-gu was launched two years ago as the third arts center of the district office in Seoul. It will celebrate its anniversary on May 2.
``We all are delighted that the center has been recognized as a good venue for the performing arts in such a short time,'' Park Pyoung-jun, president of the center, told The Korea Times. ``The center has successfully become a neighborhood community arts center in the district despite a tight budget.''
The arts center, consisting of a main 700-seat theater, a smaller 200-seat theater and various art and sports facilities, has built a reputation for quality programs. The Naru is the first district arts center under proxy management, allowing it freedom in show scheduling and marketing.
Moreover, it has attracted audiences with low-priced tickets, which were possible in part because 40 percent of the annual budget comes from Kwangjin-gu office. Tickets for most performances are priced at lower than 50,000 won.
However, support has been set at around 450 million won this year, down 44 percent from 800 million won last year, due to a resolution by the Kwangjin district council, making it hard for the center to keep its quality programming and low-price policy.
``We would like to contribute to expanding the cultural welfare of the district community and possibly whole of Seoul city, providing more opportunities to savor more variety of performances,'' Park said. ``But the low support allows us a very little room.''
Despite the limitations, the center has arranged a series of eminent performances and concerts in celebration of the anniversary.
``An Unusual Concert'' by the ``Russian Charlie Chaplin'' Sergei Obraztsov (1901-1992) will be staged May 4-11. The show satirises faulty performers such as singers, dancers, musicians, animal tamers and acrobats. It premiered in 1946. Obraztsov, famous for his independent vaudeville-style puppet shows, has been acknowledged for establishing puppetry as an art form. Tickets cost 20,000-30,000 won.
Celebrated classical musicians will perform chamber music by German composers in the concert titled ``Germanic Tradition.'' It is also part of the 2007 Seoul Spring Festival of Chamber Music and will feature pianists Han Tong-il and Pascal Devoyon, cellists Cho Younh-chang and Yang Sung-won, and violinists Jean-Jacques Kantorow and Hu Nai-Yuan.
The program includes Beethoven's Piano Trio ``Kakadu Variations'' (Op.121a), Mendelssohn's Piano Trio No.2 in C Minor (Op.66) and Brahms' Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet in B Minor (Op.115). Tickets cost 10,000 won.
The male folk music duo Tree Bicycle will hold two concerts on May 12. They will also present fun with little twist _ singing folk versions of dance numbers such as ``10 Minutes'' by Lee Hyo-lee and ``Namhaengyolcha'' (A Train Bound to South) by Kim Soo-hee. Tickets cost 20,000 won. Discounts are available for couples and families.
Tenor Alfred Kim (Kim Jae-hyoung) will perform a solo recital on May 16. Kim has built his international reputation through singing the title role in Verdi's ``Don Carlo'' more than 40 times, mostly in Europe. He will sing numbers by Mahler, Rossini, Bellini and Verdi. Tickets cost 22,000-44,000 won.
Classical guitar virtuoso Pepe Romero will play for Korean audiences on May 17, his first solo recital here in four years. Audiences will be served Romero's flamboyant fingering and his insightful interpretation of such numbers as ``Homenaje-pour le tombeau de Debussy'' by Manuel de Falla and ``En tierras de Jerez'' by Joaquin Rodrigo. Tickets cost 33,000-66,000 won.
The Naru Arts Center is located near Konkuk University Station on subway lines 2 and 7. For more information about the concerts, call (02) 2049-4700.