The State Republican Academic Korean Theater of Musical Comedy hosted a musical play “The Tale of Chun Hyang”.
The theater completed its “academic” year with this brilliant work by the main director Elena Kim, which she herself was internally preparing for long before the theater’s 86th season, which has already gone down in history. With this musical, the actors also said goodbye to their “old home”, to the stage, where they got to meet with the audience numerous times for almost twenty years and to the building, the work in which was once blessed by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Abishevich Nazarbayev, who presented the theater with a Letter of Gratitude on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the theater in 2002.
A building where a whole generation of actors grew up creatively! These walls have absorbed so many emotions! So many great victories and doubts, so many creative discoveries took place here, and most importantly – so many spectators (there were so many eminent guests among them!) got unforgettable emotions… This was the last performance to be staged by the Korean Theater here. And that’s a little sad too.
It is gratifying that the actors of our Korean theater, who for the most part are already honored cultural figures of the Republic of Kazakhstan, were presented with letters of thanks from the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Kazakhstan before the start of the performance: the main director of the theater Elena Kim and the leading actor of the theater Alisher Makhpirov.
– I am a bit worried today, – Oleg Safronovich Lee, one of the patriarchs of the Korean Theater, Honored Art Worker of the Kazakh SSR, holder of the Order of Kurmet, began his speech. – You were lucky to witness a unique performance in a new production and a new vision today. Let’s enjoy the stage together, cry and laugh with the characters.
The peculiarity of the event, the uniqueness of the performance and the courage of the theater director Lyubov Avgustovna Ni, director Elena Kim and the entire creative team are all evident, and the well-hidden excitement of the actors for the audience is quite expected. And on June 28, 2018, in the hall on this historic day of the premiere, there were a lot of intrigued spectators waiting for the action.
There were also guests from South Korea, and representatives of various public organizations, and most importantly, the audience who had already seen the production of Chun Hyang previously by different directors came to see the performance. In the auditorium in the front row sat a veteran of the Korean theater, an actress, an Honored Artist of the Kazakh SSR Maya Sanchunovna Pak, who used to play the role of Chun Hyang and who still remains that girl who carried the chastity of loyalty, purity and nobility in the memory of the viewer. Before the premiere, the actors kept running up to her, expressing their joy at the fact that Chun Hyang was with them and filled with the anticipation that the characters of different years would inevitably meet today. Do they recognize each other? Will they understand each other after all these years? And most importantly – how will the viewer perceive all this?
And before we start, let’s remember what the name Chun Hyang actually means to our Koreans, the “koryo saram” of Kazakhstan (from Korean – “aroma of spring”).
To answer this question, we should look into one of the facts in the history of Korean Theater. During the first five years of its existence, many classic plays were staged within the walls of the theater, among them was the play “The Legend of Chun Hyang”. Chun Hyang, being the national hero of Korean people, has long become the embodiment of everything bright and beautiful, the inevitable triumph of high feelings and a symbol of fidelity and integrity of the female image for the Koreans, who by the will of fate found themselves in Kazakhstan. She instilled faith in people and helped them see the beauty of life and love, that can break all the boundaries.
The story is simple. The young beauty Chun Hyang, the daughter of the former local kisaeng Wolme, meets Doryeong. Doryeong is in love and secretly woos Chun Hyang, who had mutual feelings for him. But Sato also has feelings for her. Rejected, he suffers from unrequited love and is ready for anything, even cruelty. Daryeong’s father is promoted and is sent to the Capital. Doryeong is forced to leave with his parents. Sato was appointed as the new ruler. He summons Chun Hyang to him and persuades her to become his concubine, but Chun Hyang remains loyal to Doryeong. Sato sends her to prison in anger, hoping that she will not endure the torment and will give her consent … But Chun Hyang endures even terrible torture and refuses the villain,choosing to wait for her lover.
Doryeong returns disguised as a beggar, since he entered the service and now his job is to incriminate and punish officials mired in corruption. Sato is caught and punished, and the couple in love is reunited. This is the traditional narrative of folk legend. But the production team of the theater shows the viewer a new vision of the classical work: all the action is accompanied by live music, and the director offers non-standard stage solutions. The roles of the main characters were divided into two halves – musical and choreographic. Live music accompanies the performance – the artists “comment” on the scenes by playing percussion and keyboard instruments. This time the stage was given to young and talented actors who, in their own way, thanks to visuals, embodied their heroes on stage. I would like to name the dancers – Anna Tsoi, Anel Kogay (Chun Hyang), Kuanyshbek Tolegen (Doryeong), Azat Dautov (Sato), Nadezhda Kim, Laura Yerzhigitova (Volme), Timur Liang, Leonid Son (Bandya), Gulmira Bakhytkhanova, Evgenia Yun (Hyangdan). Remember these names, just in case. Vocalists: Maya Lee (Chung Hyang), Sergey Kim (Doryong), Alisher Makhpirov (sato), Honored Artist of the Republic of Kazakhstan Zoya Kim (Volme), Oleg Yun (Bandya) and Natalya Li (Hyandyan) performed with great enthusiasm. Generally, the audience was impressed with the versatility of the actors of the Korean theater, and the huge potential of the creative team.
Many people worked on this performance and everyone was worried about how the audience would react to the updated version of Chun Hyang, hailed as an all time classic. It is impossible to retell what happened on stage, it was only meant to be seen with one’s own eyes, experienced in person by being in the hall where the story happened. To really appreciate this, one has to be prepared.
The performance-musical attracted a large audience and all the tickets were sold out. The audience warmly welcomed actors on stage, applauding after each scene and showing their gratitude. There was such an intimate relationship between the audience and the actors on stage, as if the story was directly told from heart-to-heart. This is especially true with people who do not speak Korean: the simultaneous translation sometimes simply cannot reach the audience in time, but it doesn’t need to, because art does not have a language barrier, so the audience can easily understand what’s going on on stage by the actors’ performances.
After the performance ended, the audience wouldn’t let the actors leave the stage, and they, slightly surprised and lost by all the applause, thanked the audience again and again. The performance left such an impression on the audience that after it ended, people had long conversations among each other, discussing what happened and sharing their thoughts with one another. But the audience was a bit divided.
Younger people were very delighted. Of course they would. It had everything: great music, characters, dancing, a lot of humor, a lot of really amazing and dynamic scenes, and everything was simply overflowing with emotions.
Older people were not that happy with the fact that music and dancing distracted them from the main content, and they were also not very happy with the portrayal of Chun Hyan herself. Chun Hyan they knew was somewhere there in the past along with their youth. The new character is sweet and fragile, but this is not the same girl they once fell in love with.
No one would doubt that everything was done talent and with thought put into it, the audience reaction and approval is the guarantee of that. Although some believed that it was not right to mess with the classics like that. Where is that quiet and shy but sometimes mischievous girl that everybody loves and knows so well? But on the contrary, perhaps it should also be noted that making this play a musical was an attempt to make the younger generation better understand the real meaning of this old story of lovers.
So what was it like on June 28 on the stage of the Korean theater? It is no coincidence that the audience got this musical at the end of the season. As they say, there is still time for reflection. Until September, until September! We will meet with our favorite theater now in a new place. Remember the new address, dear fans of the Korean theater: Bogenbai batyr St, 158.