I love Daegu. This month it has been the Daegu International Opera Festival and I have been to three performances. The tickets are very affordable, the productions are brilliant, and it has been a wonderful week.
First was a Midsummer Night's Dream with my friend Jose. I'd seen Tricia's performances of it throughout my childhood and had wanted to see it done as a ballet. I finally got the chance. It was done by the Karlsruche National Theater in Germany, and they were marvelous. I had been to a professional ballet before, but the costumes and set design really made this experience unique.
Two days later, I went to a traditional Korean opera with Corinne. This is a story about a man who fought against Japanese occupation and is very celebrated in Korean history. It is a very solemn, respectful performance, but I found it historically flawed. For instance, Simsan and his fellow scholars wondered at one point if they should do something to assist China in her fight against the Japanese, and "Chinese" men came onto stage dancing and proclaiming that "China is big, China will be okay." Of course, China was devastated by Japanese invasion. Furthermore, when the Korean resistance was meeting and Japanese soldiers came to disband them, they told Simsan that Korean men were admirable and brave, and let them continue plotting to overthrow Japan. It seemed more of a propaganda piece - like watching a stereotypical depiction of America's Thanksgiving story. I loved the costumes, music, and vocal performance, but the story wasn't something I took too seriously.
Lastly, Corinne and I saw The Barber of Seville this weekend. This was mind-blowing. The actors were from all over Asia (a Pan-Asian collaboration), while the chorus and orchestra were from Daegu. The costumes were really true to their European, era-appropriate style, and the set design was beautifully done. The story-line was amusing and playful, and was choreographed wonderfully. I actually remember my camera and got a picture with the "Count" after the performance, so you could see one of the costumes closer up.
The performances were all opera-novice and foreigner friendly - all of the venues had screens up with scrolling text in Korean and English and the programs had a synopsis for each Act. I am often pleasantly surprised to see how welcoming Korea is for native English speakers, and this festival was not an exception. This month the Phantom of the Opera is coming to Daegu, and I will be attending. I can't wait.