Perfect timing: The kimchi-tteok-ramyeon were just boiling as the new (the 978th!) episode of Gugak Han Madang (국악한마당) started at 12.10 pm. Founded in 1986, this KBS series is the oldest and most prominent weekly TV show on traditional Korean music.
The program was as usual, with some numbers of music and dance as well as current concert announcements. Also, there was a report on extension of the National Gugak Center (국립국악원) with two new performance spaces. Besides the circular outdoor Yeonhui Madang (연희마당, lit. “yard for [traditional] performing arts”, which replaces the former rectangular outdoor stage 별맞이터, lit. “place to touch the stars”), the new chamber hall Pungnyu Sarangbang (풍류사랑방, lit. “reception room for the appreciation of arts”) offers an adequate setting for small-scale performances.
According to the report, no electronic amplification will be used in the Pungnyu Sarangbang—perfect conditions for pansori purists! (This feature did not transfer well through TV, though.)
안경숙, official blogger for the National Gugak Center, describes the purpose of the space in a blogpost on the opening as follows:
The Pungnyu Sarangbang, as a performance space for ‘indigeneous sounds’ and ‘voice-centered music’ that is different from mainstream performance culture, is a chamber music hall where audience and performers can cheerfully intermingle and ‘become one’.
(“‘풍류 사랑방’은 기존의 공연문화와 차별화된 원음과 육성 위주의 공연장으로 관객과 공연자가 하나 되어 어우러지는 흥겨운 실내 공연장입니다.”)
It will be interesting to see how pansori will feel in this environment. Of course, the theatre setting—a clear division between stage and auditorium—is not completely abandoned here. Still, being close to the performers in a rather small room will surely make a difference. (The Folk Theatre Pungryu (민속극장 풍류), run by the Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation (한국문화재재보호재단), is a similar experiment in intimacy. The theatre is slightly bigger—147 seats, in comparison to 130 seats at the Pungnyu Sarangbang—but for some formats this works really well)
More important than architectural features or technical innovations, however, is how actively these new performance venues will be used in the future… In this case, I’m quite sure that both stages (although this term in not quite fitting in either case) will integrate well into the existing venues of the National Gugak Center. Regular performances are scheduled, for example a “Performing Arts Market” (연희난장) every Saturday afternoon at the Yeounhui Madang and a variety program called “Pungnyu Sanbang” (풍류산방) every Wednesday night at the Pungnyu Sarangbang.
I didn’t attend the opening ceremony, unfortunately, but I’m excited to experience these two new performance spaces myself soon!
— 4 May 2013 (土)
(The two pictures of the new performance spaces are courtesy of 안경숙, official blogger for the National Gugak Center — see her post on the opening ceremony. The ramyeon are my creation.)