Opera festival delights eastern Seoul
The Seoul Opera Festival ran June 20 to 30 at the special outdoor stage at Cheonho Park and at Gangdong Arts Center in Myeongil-dong. The festival was a celebration of all things opera with eight different events, presentations and performances, all of which were utterly delightful.
A particularly interesting presentation was the “Opera and Jazz” evening where sopranos, baritones and tenors performed iconic pieces of Puccini, Mozart and Donizetti to guitars, upright basses and the saxophone. It was unlike anything I had ever heard. And it worked. It absolutely worked. It was new and exciting and exactly what a festival was meant to showcase.
It was a feeling I maintained throughout the entire festival with each event I attended and read about. Koreans love their opera and their music, but they want to celebrate it in different, unique ways. They want to experiment and make it widely accessible to all walks of life. Absent were snobs who upturned their noses at new takes on Mozart’s “Figaro”; instead, you found children with their parents, couples in matching outfits cheering as a soprano hit that pitch perfect note, and an overall intense enthusiasm for the art.
The festival culminated in a two-day run of Verdi’s masterpiece “Rigoletto” at the Hangang Grand Theater at the Gangdong Arts Center. Nowhere was the Seoul Opera Festival audience’s excitement and joy more palpable than at this performance. The staging was wonderful, the singers top notch, and the story well acted. But it was the audience I was most captivated by. Choruses of “Bravo!”s and cheers and even wolf whistles as Gilda’s beautiful “Caro nome” came to a dramatic end and The Duke finished the infamous “La donna è mobile.” it was a wonderfully contagious joyous atmosphere that made watching what ultimately was an ironic tragedy all the more interesting.
I left the final performance of the Seoul Opera Festival with a new appreciation of the operatic arts and what artists in Seoul are doing with it.
Credit also needs to go to the Gangdong Arts Center for putting on a festival with such a wide range of interesting performances and talks. It’s a facility that should be on any arts and culture lover’s list. On the schedule for August is the 2017 Summer Music Festival featuring orchestral arrangements of popular K-pop songs and sound track numbers, the St. Petersburg State Ballet on Ice and a production of The Jungle Book aimed at child audiences. Additionally the art center always has some sort of photography or art exhibition going on and puts on numerous music and orchestral concerts every year. There’s simply something for everyone.
The Gangdong Arts Center is located just a short walk from Godeok Station (Line 5), Exit 4. You can find more information, including what’s on, at www.gangdongarts.or.kr.
Written by Kristina Manente