** Four stars for spectacle, one for content... it averages out
A bit strange to celebrate the Japan/Korea World Cup by staging a Korean opera about how the Japanese murdered their queen!
In the late 19th century, Min Ja-Young became queen to King Kojong of Chosun (as Korea was then called). More astute than her husband, she persuaded him first to dismiss his regent and rule himself, then to end Chosun's isolationism. After a brief spell in exile, she and Kojong persuaded European powers to buttress Chosun against Japanese expansionism, leading to Min's murder in a Japanese-led operation codenamed "Fox Hunt".
This is a lot of plot for any play. For a through-sung musical, it's unbearably dense. It's also impossible to tell what this may have been like in the original Korean. Peter Casey and Stephen Coleman have written a western orchestration which renders the score into portentous and unmemorable "Oriental-Lite", except for the moments when it bizarrely threatens to veer into the St Trinian's theme. Georgina St George's English lyrics are trite on the few occasions when they rhyme, and woefully leaden the rest of the time. It's like listening to two and a half hours of complex recitative. Ho Jin Yun's production is visually ravishing, to be sure, but this is the sort of ravishment that comes with a heavy dose of Rohypnol.
Written for divento.com
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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