Asia: Korean Theaters, Concert Halls Begin Reopening
Korean Theaters, Concert Halls Begin Reopening
Theaters and concert halls in South Korea have slowly started reopening in May after a two-month hiatus due to the coronavirus outbreak.
South Korea was one of the first countries to shut down many activities when the epidemic hit the country hard in February. Now, the number of new cases has slowed to almost zero per day.
According to the Korea Times, the National Theater of Korea, which operates three performance groups, is offering events starting in May. From May 14 to 24 the National Changgeuk Company will present the play “Chunhyang,” and the National Orchestra of Korea will resume its monthly Midday Concerts on May 20.
A long-running production of “The Phantom of the Opera” musical, which was suspended in April after several cast members tested positive for the virus, has already resumed its run, which ends in late June.
Extra safety measures have been instituted for the remaining dates, as the government has asked venues to follow a policy of 2-meter social distancing and requiring audience members to wear masks at all times. The state-owned Seoul Arts Center in southern Seoul will also reopen with legitimate stage plays. Other theaters that have announced renewed operations are the Goyang Cultural Foundation and the LG Arts Center, which is presenting the musical, “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” from July 7 to Sept. 11.
Nevertheless, the closure has irreparably hurt the theater industry. The Korea Performing Arts Box Office information system reports that revenues in April for musicals, plays and concerts amounted to only $3.84 million, the lowest number ever recorded for the month. Several smaller theaters have already closed down permanently.
In addition, there are those who are warning that it is still too soon to open up for business, since there may be “asymptomatic infected people in the community,” says the Korea Times. Consequently, some theaters, such as the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, do not plan to reopen until the end of May at the earliest.
Also, the Lotte Concert Hall in Seoul plans to hold its first-ever Salzburg Festival in August. Called an answer to BBC Proms in the UK, the festival will celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday with eight symphonies, five chamber pieces and one recital during 13 performances over nine days. Among the performers will be the Busan Philharmonic Orchestra, violinist and conductor Christoph Poppen and various South Korean classical musicians.
China’s Shanghai Grand Theater Pivots To Digital Content
China has also been slowly reopening its entertainment sector, but the Shanghai Grand Theater remains closed. In fact, according to Broadway World it recently marked its 100th day of closure, though that doesn’t mean the company was inactive.
On April 30, the theater presented a one-hour online production featuring opera, ballet, modern dance, drama and Chinese music. All of the performances were prerecorded separately at the theater. Among the performance groups who participated were the Jin Xing Dance Theater, the Shanghai Ballet, stage musical singer Liu Lingfei, the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra, and tenor Han Peng, whoc sang a Puccini aria.
In addition, more than 130 acts are performing in a series of three online events starting May 4 for China’s biggest ever internet benefit concert called “Believe in the Future.” Featured artists included Faye Wong, Karen Mok, classical pianist Lang Lang, Kris Wu and Cai Xukun performing from home or from “personal studios.”
According to the South China Morning Post, which called the concerts a kind of answer to Lady Gaga’s “One World: Together At Home” concert, which only featured one artist from mainland China and was not shown in China. Curated by Gao Xiaosong, chairman of the Alibaba Entertainment Strategic Committee and co-founder of Alibaba Music Group, the concert was held to support the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement on China.org, Gao said, “We hope to encourage everyone restarting their life’s journey and their struggle to survive. Our music comes from this land, and we are willing to give back to this land through every single musical note.”
The broadcast was free of all commercials and sponsorships, and publishing rights were waived with the permission of major rights groups and record labels. One of the organizers, Li Jie, the chief executive of online ticketing platform Damai, said the concert would also help musicians resume work, since Damai was launching a scheme to to connect musicians with venues and services for free, so that the musicians could “keep most of the proceeds from performances.”
YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images – Kodo
Members of Japanese taiko drumming company KODO perform on the stage of Madureira park where is located at the birthplace of two of Rio’s traditional samba schools, Portela and Imperio Serrano, during their final show on Brazil tour in Rio de Janeiro on March 20, 2016.
Kodo Requests Donations To Keep Tour Dreams Alive
Kodo, Japan’s most famous taiko drum troupe, which was supposed to embark on a nationwide tour in May, has hit a financial wall as it celebrates its 30th anniversary.
According to the Japan Times in April the troupe put out an appeal on its official website asking for donations. It is also selling some instruments and merchandise to keep its operations ongoing.
Supporters who donate at least 500 yen ($4.50) will have their names uploaded on to the group’s website, and its online store is selling DVDs, CDs, apparel, drumsticks and other percussion tools.
Taiko is a traditional drum performance art that is a staple of Japanese regional festivals. It normally eschews any form of amplification. Dynamism and physicality are its hallmarks. Kodo itself was founded on the remote island of Sado in the Japan Sea. Kodo has collaborated with many international artists, including the Canadian theater director Robert Lepage.
In late August, Kodo always holds its annual Earth Celebration festival on Sado, and as of now it plans to do so this summer as well, depending on circumstances.
Asia Rising Forever Festival Stages Digitally
The Asian hip-hop collective 88rising presented the Asia Rising Forever festival on Twitter May 6.
The roster included some of the continent’s most promising new stars as well as several veteran acts from various countries, including singer Rich Brian, Indonesian singer-producer NIKI, Korean-American rapper Dumbfounded, Taiwan DJ Josh Pan, Korea superstar Kang Daniel, girl group CLC, the Korean indie rock sensation Hyukoh, and alt-pop singer Lim Kim.
The collective, which reaches across both sides of the Pacific called the venture “an online festival celebrating the most exciting Asian talent from around the world.”
88rising, which supports a label and a media business, was slated to present “Double Happiness” at Coachella this year, which, according to Forbes, would have “put a major spotlight on Asian talent at the year’s first major music festival.”
Asia Rising Forever seems to be a substitute, though the more open availability of streaming on Twitter presents the organization with a rare and special opportunity to make its name more known.
Tokyo Club Operator Shutters Four Venues, Considers Reopening One
In March Tokyo club operator Culture of Asia ceased business activities in the face of the COVID-19 crisis and announced it would close the four venues it ran in the capital: Vuenos, Glad, Lounge Neo and the very popular live house clubasia.
Culture of Asia was established in 1996 and has been instrumental in boosting Tokyo’s club scene for the past 20 years. Its closure was seen as a major blow to Tokyo’s status as a world-class city for clubgoing.
When the central government declared a state of emergency in April, the decision was finalized.
However, due to popular online support, the organization has decided to try to reopen clubasia sometime in the future and launched the Keep clubasia Continue Party, a crowdfunding endeavor that has received a great deal of attention from the clubgoing community.