I like to think I’m a culturally minded person, but when it comes right down to it, I attend far fewer cultural events than I would like. So when the fiancé surprised me with tickets to the opera for my birthday, I was more than ready to get my performing arts groove on.
But hold on a minute, you’re thinking. Don’t you live in South Korea? Do they even have the opera there? Yes I do, and yes they do—and surprisingly, the opera is big business. As the capital, Seoul has a melange of theaters and galleries, but I live in Daegu, a city most people outside of Korea have never heard of. You might be surprised to learn that Daegu, Korean’s fourth largest city, is the proud owner of a world-class opera house, which hosts the Daegu International Opera Festival every autumn.
Our tickets were to see Il Barbiere de Siviglia (The Barber of Seville). I had no idea what to expect of an Italian opera performed by Korean opera singers. In fact, a friend had told me that when she attended the opera festival a few years ago, she was astounded to hear that the German opera she expected to see was performed entirely in Korean. I truly hoped that would not be the case with our fair Barber—I wanted to see the opera as Rossini originally composed it.
The overture began and the curtains rose. The symphony sounded lovely, though the acoustics were surprisingly quiet. Once the performers began to sing, their voices almost seemed lost in the vast expanse of the theater. I’m no expert, but the costumes and sets, though presentable, seemed lackluster—cheap copies of finery. I’ve found many things in Korea to be that way, they look nice from far away, and appear poorly made up close.
But to my pleasure, the opera was performed in Italian, though the giant screens with Korean subtitles were no subtle reminder of exactly what country I was truly in.
If you go: Tickets to the Daegu Opera House range from around 30,000 to 80,000 KRW, but there are often special discounts.