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“The Last Empress” to Be Performed at a Royal Palace

Posted April. 24, 2008 05:04,   


The masterpiece Korean musical “The Last Empress” will be staged at Gyeonghui Palace, Jongno, Seoul, starting from May 3 to 12. The epic musical is the first piece to be performed as an outdoor performance at the Royal Palaces, planned by the Seoul Cultural Foundation.

Yun Ho-jin, CEO of A-Com International, which planned “The Last Empress,” said, “I have long held this idea to have this musical staged at a royal palace. With the first-ever outdoor performance at a palace, I believe the musical will present a fantastic world of spectacle and virtuosity that can hardly be expressed indoors.”

The advantage Gyeonghui Palace provides is that it allows the audience seats to be surrounded by the stage consisting of Sungjeongjeon, the main hall of the palace, and a corridor, enabling the audience to relish the traditional beauty of royal architecture as well as fascinating scenes. The musical will be held in the front courtyard of Sungjeongjeon.

Although the indoor performance raises the curtain with a trial scene, this time the musical begins with the wedding ceremony of Empress Myeongseong. The wedding parade, consisting of up to 60-strong court ladies, enters the Sungjeongjeon after passing the main corridor when the door of Gyeonghui Palace opens.

More realistic stage effects were utilized to bring home the empress’s murder scene, a highlight of the performance, with court ladies and Japanese warriors descending on the corridors on both sides of the main stage. It enables the rapid development of a nearly realistic scene.

Battle scenes with the Japanese army and the Russian navy at sea have been upgraded from their original indoor versions. The battle scenes and the empress’s flight for refuge are dramatically presented with a dozen artificial guns installed among audience seats to amplify sound effects during battle scenes. Meanwhile, a large screen captures realistic engagement scenes and fighting images. The cast is said to have increased by 20.

Previous performances of “The Last Empress” were performed on a revolving stage with gigantic sets. But this one will focus on the original forms of the palace using the major courtyards such as “Sangwoldae” and “Hawoldae.”

Director Yun said, “The wall and roofing tiles of Gyeonghui Palace serve as natural sound absorbing walls, and its small scale also provides the audience with surrounding panorama. The open stage surrounding the audience seats will impress viewers as if they are experiencing the tragic historical incidence.

If there is something to be desired, seats surrounding the floor are raised on the same level, making it difficult for some to see the traditional wedding scene and murder scene. However, A-COM said, “The palace has an audience capacity of 1,200, but there will be little difference due to its small scale.”

Running time will be reduced to 100 minutes from the original 140 minutes without intermission.

Considering it is an outdoor performance, the company has also planned to provide refunds or postpone the performance if weather is not permissible.

Tickets cost from 30,000 to 50,000 won, a drastic cut from 40,000 to 120.000 won for indoor performances, thanks to the support of the foundation. Original cast members, including veteran actress Lee Tae-won, Lee Sang-eun, Yun Yeong-seok and Kim Seong-ki, will perform. For more information, call (02) 3290-7144.