Trojan Women is a contemporary Asian musical created from K-pop and pansori, the 400-year-old Korean genre of musical storytelling anointed as a UNESCO Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Directed by SIFA Founding Festival Director, Ong Keng Sen, in a collaboration with the National Theater Of Korea, this production took Seoul by storm at the close of 2016 and is being staged for the first time outside Korea.
From the essence of a tale said to have happened around 1200BC that intrigued Homer, Trojan Women has been reinvented. Composed by celebrated master-artist, pansori singer and National Treasure, Ms Anh Sook-sun, in collaboration with K-pop composer extraordinaire, Jung Jae-Il, Trojan Women tells the story of women in war in a showcase of gripping power and cross-cultural beauty.
The women of Troy, including their queen Hecuba, are about to be deported as war slaves to Greece, the victorious country. Hecuba has lost her husband and all her sons in the 10-year Trojan War. She receives news that her daughter, Cassandra, is to be taken as a slave (concubine) to Agamemnon, chief king of Greece, and her daughter-in-law, crown princess Andromache, to a Greek general. The war erupted when Helen, queen of Sparta-Greece, fell in love with Hecuba's son Paris and escaped to Troy with him. Helen’s cuckolded husband Menelaus, King of Sparta, vengefully pursued his runaway wife and her paramour. The Trojans were ultimately surprised by a gigantic wooden horse, which they embraced as a gift from the gods. In the dark night, Greek soldiers emerged from the horse and slaughtered the people of the entire city.
In keeping with the work’s strong gender perspectives, renowned Beijing choreographer Wen Hui joins the production with her signature movement work drawing from the daily lives of women. SIFA began its life with the acclaimed Korean adaptation of another Greek classic “Oedipus”. Founding Festival Director Ong remembers this and, in his last season, invites Korean playwright Bae Sam-sik to recast Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1965 adaptation of "The Trojan Women", the Greek classic by Euripides.
As history has proven, Troy is defeated but never forgotten, her women endure not as victims but as survivors. The Korean artists give a whole new meaning to this legend, making it their very own.
Performed in Korean with English surtitles.
Commissioned by Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) and National Theater of Korea.
Victoria Theatre is located at 9 Empress Pl, Singapore 179556
Ong Keng Sen
SIFA Founding Festival Director Ong Keng Sen's style of distilled yet rich storytelling in theatre is often told through strong concept, integrated choreography and bold visuality. However, with Trojan Women, Ong wanted to return to the minimalism of pansori where each of the central characters are accompanied by primarily one musical instrument; to hear afresh the words which have sometimes been submerged in dynamic music. He wanted to return changgeuk back to pansori, rather than simply being dressed up with random elements of opera or musical theatre. Ong thus set out for Trojan Women to be a work worthy of being in the pantheon of changguek plays to be redirected by other directors in the future, grounded by the feeling of responsibility to contribute to the repertoire of the only five precious full pansoris extant, with the collaboration of strong if not the best Korean artists.
Ahn Sook-sun is Korea's living treasure delivering Gayageum. Born in Namwon, in the North Jeolla province, and trained under the greatest pansori masters, Ahn Sook-sun is considered to be one of the most exceptional performers of the art. Here she presents the tale in a rare, two-voice format (ipchechang) – sometimes as soloist, sometimes as a duet - the intensity of the vocal line and the story’s playful dimension are heightened. They are accompanied by the gosu who plays soribuk – the specific drum used for pansori.
Jung Jae-il is lauded for his deep comprehension of classical music and traditional Korean music, as well as outstanding abilities in piano, guitar and bass. He has released over a hundred albums and participated in over thirty films and plays as a music producer. He is acknowledged as a young musician with a good command of composing and having performed over a hundred concerts internationally.