New Season at the National Theater

I just received next season’s program of the National Theater of Korea (국립극장). Browsing the booklet called “국립레퍼토리시즌 2012-2013” (National Repertory Season, see it online here), I really got excited, seeing that there will be quite a number of interesting (possibly thesis-relevant) pansori-related productions in the following months… Let’s have a look:

Mr Rabbit and the Dragon King (수궁가)

Mr Rabbit and the Dragon King (수궁가)

First, the season takes off with a short re-run of last year’s Mr. Rabbit and the Dragon King (수궁가), a new changgeuk-production (or “pansori-opera”, according to the program) directed by German director Achim Freyer (“Bertolt Brecht’s last student”). I did not have a chance to see this production last year because I was in Germany when it premiered in fall and had already returned to Seoul when a guest performance took place in Wuppertal around Christmas. Also, I have heard various opinions on the piece and am excited to see it for myself… (2012-09-05 ~ 09-08)

In November, a new “thriller changgeuk” (스릴러 창극) by Han Taesuk (한태석, famous for her internationally acclaimed Lady Macbeth, see an old post on how I didn’t get tickets for that one) and Jeong Bokgeun will premiere: Janghwa and Hongryeon (장화홍련) is based on the traditional “Tale of the Two Sisters”. Kim Jee-woon’s eponimous 2003 horror movie is a modern rendition of the same plot. (2012-11-27 ~ 11.30)

Kim Hongdo, the Wizard of Art (화선 김홍도)

Kim Hongdo, the Wizard of Art (화선 김홍도)

The genre of the next piece I am looking forward to is called ga-mu-ak-geuk (가무악극, lit. “singing-dancing-music-theatre”). This co-production by all three resident companies of the National Theatre (orchestra, dance, changgeuk) is about the folk painter Kim Hongdo, better known as Danwon, who lived in the 18th century. His genre scenes are very famous and I remember that some of them—such as “무동/舞童” aka “The Dancing Boy” (see a picture) or “씨름” (“Wrestling”)—were featured in our Korean language books at Sogang University. The fusion piece, fittingly titled Kim Hongdo, the Wizard of Art (화선 김홍도), seems to stage some of these scenes. (2012-12-05 ~ 12-09)

Seopyonje (서편제)

Seopyonje (서편제)

After a musical-version of the movie Seopyeonje (서편제, 감독 임권택, 1993년) with Lee Jaram and others (review is upcoming…), now a changgeuk-interpretation is due. It is not clear whether this changgeuk-style Seopyonje is really based on the movie or rather on the original novel by Lee Cheong-jun (이청준, 1939–2008), but the script is adapted by poet, novelist, and dramatist Choe Chiyeon (sic! 최치언). The director, Yun Hojin (윤호진), is a veteran musical producer and director—he made both the international success The Last Empress (명성황후, 1995–) and the more recent National Theater-production Hero (영웅, 2009) about anti-Japanese freedom fighter An Chunggeun. Let’s see how this large scale production (using “the most advanced theatrical technology”) holds up against the musical! (2013-03-26~03-31)

Then there is Medea (메디아), a modernized changgeuk-adaptation of Euripides’ classic by Seo Jaehyeong (서재형) and Han Areum (한아름). After the Romeo and Juliet-changgeuk it was only a question of time when the National Changgeuk Company would turn to the Greeks. (2013-05-21 ~ 05-26)

Baebijang-jeon (배비장전)

Baebijang-jeon (배비장전)

Another surprise is a revival of restorative changgeuk, i.e. productions based on pieces outside the classical “five madang” canon of pansori. Baebijang-jeon (배비장전) is supposed to be the first in a series of the seven “lost pansori stories” (판소리 7바탕 복원 시리즈). The satirical story about a military officer getting lost in love adventures while on a mission to Jejudo is one of the more lighthearted stories of the repertory. According to Andrew Killick (see his recent book In Search of Korean Traditional Opera), Baebijang-jeon was the first changgeuk-production of the Korean Vocal Music Association (조선성악연구회) in 1936 and received great popular appeal. Later, in 1973, it was shown at the National Theater (then still in Myeongdong) and at least once revived in the 90s. (2012-12-08 ~ 12-16)

And there is another good news: Lee Jaram (이자람) and Nam Inu (남인우), founding members of the Pansori Project ‘ZA’ (판소리 만들기 ‘자’) who have created the great Brecht-Pansori-pieces Sacheon-ga and Ukchuk-ga, will be onto something new. They will produce what is called “The first phase in the Young Changgeuk series” (청소년 창극시리즈1)… sounds promising indeed. (2013-06-07 ~ 06-16)

And then there is of course the ongoing “Wanchang Series” (완창 판소리), full-length performances of pansori every last Saturday of the month. This September 22nd, you can compare Achim Freyer’s experimental “pansori-opera”-version of Sugung-ga with the “original”, performed by Nam Hae-seong (남해성) in the style of Bak Cho-wol (박초월제 수궁가).

All in all great prospects for friends of pansori, changgeuk and everything related—let the season begin!

— 26 Aug. 2012 (日)

About Jan Creutzenberg

Jan Creutzenberg, friend of theatre, music, and cinema, comments on his performative experiences in Seoul and elsewhere.
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One Response to New Season at the National Theater

  1. Pingback: Traditional and Experimental Pansori in Late November | Seoul Stages

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