It’s the season for full-length or “wanchang” (완창) performances of pansori! I missed an eight-hour feature of Chunhyang-ga in the Dongcho-je-style by Jeong Sang-hui (정상희, 동초제 춘향가) in late February, but after seeing Bak Hyeon-jeong’s Simcheong-ga, likewise Dongcho-je (박현정, 동초제 심청가), I’m fixed on again. It has been a while and the more recent wanchang-performances I saw were mostly Heungbo-ga and Jeokbyeok-ga, usually around two to three hours.
Simcheong-ga today was over five hours and it was a blast – after a slow start, Bak Hyeon-jeong brought it all back home in the second half, from the (untypical) start with Simcheong’s jump into the sea, to the arrival of “Ppaeng-deok’s mum”, the most notorious pansori-character of all, to the finale meeting between blindman Sim and his daugther, reborn as a queen, as a mixture of slapstick and dramatic revelation. The final applause was well earned and a short visit by master Song Sun-seop (송순섭 명창) was the cream on the cake.
Next weekend, Kim Mi-jin performs a (probably slightly shorter) version of Simcheong-ga in Boseong-sori (김미진, 보성소리 심청가, Folk Theatre ’Pungnyu”, Sunday, March 20th, 3pm, entrance free). I’m looking forward to this one in particular because the very first full-length performance of pansori I saw – once live, and then on repeat for my Masters-thesis – was in Boseong-sori, although performed by Choe Yeong-gil (최영길), a man in his late (?) sixties. Now it is a woman about half his age. Like Choe, Kim Mi-jin is member of the National Changgeuk Company (국립창극단) for fifteen years and I’m sure I’ve seen her in some pieces. And she’s actually born in Boseong, South Jeolla! I’m excited to see and hear the differences and similarities while enjoying some nostalgia.
And then, the weekend after, the wonderful Yeom Gyeong-ae presents Simcheong-ga in Gangsan-je (염경애, 강산제 심청가, National Theater, Haneul Geukjang, Saturday, March 26th, 3pm, 20,000 KRW) at the National Theater – that’s where I saw Choe Yeong-gil almost eight years ago, although it was a different stage back then. Sadly, I won’t be able to make it this time, because Tongyeong is calling. But that’s another story…
The two posters posted here (of Bak and Kim) share some aesthetic traits – I hope that the closed eyes, in particular (though not as bad as the typical book cover of novels from East Asia in translation) won’t become a trend – but these are, in fact, three quite different versions of Simcheong-ga by three very different singers. A great month for comparative analysis of pansori performances!
– 12 March 2016 (土)