Comprised of the one-acts, "The Doctor, A Chamber Opera," and "A Joke, A Musical," DAYS AND NIGHTS is adapted and directed by Byungkoo Ahn, a third generation member of Korea's most prominent theatre directing family.
Composed by Martin Herman with a libretto by T. F. Curley, "The Doctor, A Chamber Opera" is based on the 1887 Chekov story and visits the mindscape of a physician overcome with grief and uncertainty as he visits a dying young boy he has reason to believe is his illegitimate son. "The Doctor, A Chamber Opera" had its world-premiere in 2002 in Prague and Bruno in the Czech Republic with the help of The Trust for Mutual Understanding, an American foundation for cultural and environmental exchange between nations.
Based on Chekhov's 1886 tale, "A Joke, A Musical" features music by the composer regarded as the father of the popular Korean love song, the late Young Hoon Lee. The musical was created by Byungkoo Ahn, who blended Chekhov's tale of unspoken love with the celebrated, heartbreaking love songs of Mr. Lee, the most prominent composer of popular ballads in Korea. Lee's music was especially popular with young people in the 80's and 90's during that period of great political and social change in Korea. Today's generation remains familiar with Young Hoon Lee's music through popular remakes recorded by a new generation of Korean singers. According to Mr. Ahn, Chekhov was the favorite author of Young Hoon Lee, who died in 2008.
Chekhov's "A Joke" is the story of a man who lives with the memories of his first love: too shy as a boy to confess his love to the girl he adores, he recalls whispering in her ear words of love she never hears over her own screams as their sled flies down a silvery, snowy hill.
Musical arrangements and musical direction for "The Joke" by Heesun Hailey Chang is music director.
The cast of DAYS AND NIGHTS features Young Joon Chai, In Sook Kim, Sook In Em, Steven Sun and Choi Misun.
The production has costume design by Leon Wiebers, set design by Jose Ho and sound design by Curtis Curtis.
Born in Seoul, Byungkoo Ahn is a director, playwright, designer and singer. At the age of 20, Mr. Ahn's production of 'Cavalleria Rusticana' was invited by 'Young Theatre Festival' at the National Theatre of Korea. Two years later, his production, 'Play' by S. Beckett was performed again at the National Theatre. In 1996 he was awarded the Mampist Grant, which is given to young exceptional artists for their further study by Samsung Foundation of Culture. Mr. Ahn received his MFA in theater directing from UCLA in 2000, and he served as a stage director of opera workshop programs at California State University, Long Beach and Chongshin University. His directing credit includes 'Amahl and the Night Visitors' with Opera California, 'La Calisto,' 'Dido and Aeneas' and 'Impresario' with CSULB Opera, and 'Orlando' and 'Consumer's Paradise' with Downtown Opera. As a singer/actor he also has appeared in several productions in Italy since 1995 as a member of La MaMa Umbria International. Most recently he sang the role of 'Milo' in the world premier, Il Corvo, directed by Ellen Stewart at the Venice Biennale Festival, Italy in the summer of 2006.
Talk Entertainment review
by Oscar E. Moore
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Where else but at the legendary La Mama Experimental Theatre Club celebrating its 48th season can you see a production of two short stories by Chekhov – The Doctor and A Joke adapted into a chamber opera and musical respectively by a Korean, Byungkoo Ahn, which are gorgeously sung in English and Korean – some translations provided – beautifully and simply designed by Jose Ho (stark and crisp) and stylishly acted by actors from Taiwan and Korea.
Experiments are good. Both for the writers and performers and for those of us anxious to see new material written for the musical stage.
In The Doctor, music by Martin Herman – libretto b y T.F. Curley we have a young boy (Sook In Em) bedridden, under the care of a doctor (Young Jun Chai) who has had some kind of relationship with Olga, the mother (In Suk Kim). Is the child his? Will the child die of the brain tumor? Will truth prevail? It’s a fascinating piece. Pensive and haunting. Not always easy to listen to. It is a complicated score to sing and little melody for the listener to grasp onto. But always interesting. Sometimes very hard to understand the words especially when all three are singing simultaneously- although there are certain phrases that are repeated so that I got the gist of the story.
After the performance I requested a copy of the libretto which director, Byungkoo Ahn quickly supplied. Within seconds there were three for me to read. I have to say that I missed very little but it was a difficult journey.
A more pleasurable journey was the second piece – A Joke. Music by Young Hoon Lee (regarded as the father of the popular Korean love song) with additional material by Hee Sun Hailey Chang.
The story of a young man (Steven Sun) remembering his first love Nadenka (Mi Sun Choi) when they went tobogganing down a hill and while the wind rushed by and she screamed in fear he tells her “I love you, Nadenka.” It’s a beautiful, lyrical and poignant piece. Much more accessible. With translations of the three lovely songs provided in the program. Did she hear him whisper those beautiful words in her ear or was it only the wind?
The silhouetted forest as she sings Memories Are Sadder than Love is a piece of art. As are the songs. Accompanied on piano (Hee Sun Hailey Chang) and cello (Jeremy Lamb). Very fine musicians. Very fine production.