The Korea National Opera presents Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice” through Thursday at Seoul Arts Center as part of the 1st Korea Opera Festival, which continues through July. / Courtesy of Korea Opera Festiva
By Lee Hyo-won
Be ready to eat your heart out, opera lovers. The 1st Korea Opera Festival has kicked off Sunday in Seoul with the Korea National Opera's (KNO) rendition of ``Orfeo ed Euridice'' and will continue into the summer.
The inaugural edition of the event is aimed at introducing the country's top opera ensembles and bringing the genre closer to the general public. It will be held through July 7 at Seoul Arts Center.
Organized by the KNO and the Opera Society of Korea, the festival features the state-backed ensemble and four civilian troupes that were chosen among the 85 that are part of the Opera Society ― Gloria Opera Ensemble, Sol'Opera, Seoul Opera Ensemble and Beseto Opera.
``It's been 62 years since opera was introduced in Korea,'' Choi Seung-u, president of the Opera Society, told reporters in Seoul last week. ``There have been much talk within the opera circle about the need for a festival that can bring together both public and private sectors, and I hope this event will help revamp the local opera scene.''
Lee So-young, artistic director of the KNO, expressed enthusiasm about the project. ``This will be an opportunity for the Korea National Opera to share its production know-how with civilian ensembles, which have struggled to grow and contribute to the development of Korean opera despite dire conditions,'' she said. ``As for operagoers, I wish we can deliver the magic of opera, with the sheer power of the human voice rather than through other artificial means.''
Chang Soo-dong, director of the Seoul Opera Ensemble, emphasized that it is important to create a festive event in which opera ensembles can cooperate together to give hope and joy to the public.
``This is the first edition of the event, so we chose the most popular works that a wider range of audience can enjoy. Each group is presenting its signature production,'' said Kang Hwa-ja, head of Beseto Opera. ``As much as Korea is equipped with talented opera singers, we must take advantage of it and continue developing the festival in the long run.''
The KNO opens the festivities with ``Ofeo ed Euridice,'' which will be staged in the intimate space of Seoul Art Center's Towol Theater. The Gluck opera features an ancient Greek mythological romance between the musically gifted Orfeo and the nymph Euridice. Lee So-young will direct the mise-en-scene while Mathew Halls will conduct the British period music group Retrospect Ensemble. Countertenors David Dong-qyu Lee and Stephen Wallace will share the lead role of Orfeo whil soprano Park Mi-ja will play the heroine.
Once the KNO's production of ``Orfeo ed Euridice'' ends Thursday, fans can look forward to ``Rigoletto'' by the Gloria Opera Company from June 7 to 10 at the grand Opera Theater. Italian director Riccardo Canessa will present his interpretation of the Verdi opera to local fans. Baritones Franco Giovine and Kim Dong-gyu will alternate the lead role.
Next, ``Aida'' by the Sol'Opera will be staged from June 16 to 19 at the same venue. The Busan-based company will present the classic Puccini melodrama with a star-studded cast of Italian and Korean singers, including tenors Mario Malagnini and Lee Jeong-won and power baritone Ko Sung-hyun. Italian directors Paolo Bosisio and Antonio de Lucia will whip up the mise-en-scene.
The Seoul Opera Ensemble will offer fans ``La Traviata'' from June 25 to 28. Though one of the most frequently staged pieces here, the Verdi opera, however, will be presented with a new modern twist. Fans can also look forward to getting a taste of Russian sensibility with soprano Natlia Voronkina as the sultry heroine Violetta. Georgy Dimitrov will conduct.
Last but not least, the Beseto Opera will present a rendition of ``Carmen'' that was produced by the Prague Opera Theater in the Czech Republic, from July 3 to 7. The country's top singers, including baritone Ko Sung-hyun and soprano Kim In-hye, will take the stage with renowned Czech artists.
Tickets cost from 30,000 to 250,000 won. For more information, call (02) 580-1300.