“I admire Nguyen Du and his work,” said Chun, adding that she had known of Truyen Kieu for a long time but had only recently read it in Korean.
The work recounts the life, trials and tribulations of Thuy Kieu, a beautiful and talented young woman who sacrificed herself to save her father and younger brother from prison.
Kieu sold herself into a marriage to a middle-aged man, unaware of his profession as a pimp. He later forced her into prostitution, marking the start of a series of tragic events in her life.
“I have great sympathy for Kieu, so I had an urge to bring her to the stage,” she said.
Chun has spent over a year on preparations for Kieu’s story.
She invited Korean director Jung Sun-Goo to write the script and direct the performance, and brought staff from the RoK to be in charge of sound and light effects and stage design.
Chun has also worked with Vietnamese choreographer Nguyen Phuc Hung to offer training to young dancers from the HCM City Ballet Symphony Orchestra and Opera (HBSO) and Y.O. Dance Ensemble.
|Korean choreographer and dancer Chun Yoo-Oh performs in the dance Promise to 800 (Photo courtesy of HBSO)
Hung said: “Chun asked the dancers to take two months to read Truyen Kieu. And then she let them talk about their feelings about the characters and choose the characters they want to play.”
He said there would be three “Kieu” on stage, representing the character in the past, present and future, portrayed by Tran Hoang Yen, Nguyen Thu Trang and Ha On Kim Tuyen.
Chun said: “Through the image of Kieu, I want to highlight the fate of women in the past and in modern society.”
She said the show would feature a blend of Vietnamese and Korean music, using Vietnamese musical instruments, including the dan T’rung (bamboo xylophone), dan da (lithopone) and dan tam thap luc (16-chord zither) played by Cao Ho Nga, the sao truc (bamboo flute) played by Dinh Nhat Minh, and the dan nguyet (two-string guitar) played by Nghiem Thu.
The show will also feature People’s Artist Thanh Hoai, who will perform ca tru (ceremonial singing), and the Korean traditional vocalist Kang Kwon-soon.
“I’m concerned about combining Vietnamese and Korean music. I hope it works,” said Chun, who has lived in Vietnam for 15 years and is very knowledgeable about Vietnamese traditions and culture.
She choreographed and danced two routines based on Vietnamese stories, including Cross-Bow in 2014 and Promise to 800 in 2015, at the HCM City Opera House.
Cross-Bow is based on the epic love story of My Chau – Trong Thuy, while Promise to 800 reflects the real story of Prince Ly Long Tuong in the Ly dynasty in the 12th century, who left the country to avoid bloodshed caused by the Tran dynasty and later stopped in the RoK.
Promise to 800 was restaged at the Opera House last November as an opening event of the HCM City-Gyeongju World Culture Expo 2017 held from November 11 to December 3.
In 2016, Chun introduced the dance routine Myth of Woman in HCM City to honour women.
“I’m delighted to have choreographed well-known Vietnamese legends,” said Chun, a graduate of Ewha Woman’s University in the RoK, where she obtained a PhD in art. She later studied analysis of movement at the University of Surrey in the UK.
From 1991to 2004, she worked as a professor at Seowon University in South Korea and choreographed major shows.
Truyen Kieu will be presented in two shows on March 10 and 11 at the Opera House, 7 Lam Son Square, District 1. Tickets are available at the venue.