아가씨 :: SYNOPSIS
Set in Japanese colonial ruled Korea, in the 1930s.
ACT 1 //
Young suitor Count Fujiwara (a Korean conman) launches a ploy to seduce, swindle, and lock away Japanese countess Hideko, to gain her inheritance by sending a spy disguised as a Korean handmaiden named Sook Hee to help further his aims, with help from the
inside, exploiting soft skills associated with female relations/labor. Sook Hee is also a con-woman herself, caught between fulfilling her mission with in aid of Fujiwara, and her own aims -- while developing feelings and intimacy with Lady Hideko. After a turn of events, and cashing out Hideko's inheritance, it is then revealed that Hideko and Fujiwara double crossed Sook-hee and has convinced the asylum that Sook Hee is
the Countess, and have her committed in Hideko's stead.
ACT 2 //
Origin of these dark energies, betrayals, and longstanding power dynamics, are later revealed through a series of flashbacks from Hideko's childhood, showing Kouzuki (Hideko's abusive uncle)'s dark and stoic force used to control both young Hideko and her
aunt, who hanged herself from the tree outside their house, due to Kouzuki's voyeuristic, dark, and seedy salons where her aunt, and later Hideko are forced into narrating and performing erotic readings for his dark, twisted, and elite salon of men.
ACT 3 //
Despite plots to cheat and steal from the other, Sook Hee and Hideko fall in love, and are allies and strange bedfellows amid a male patriarchal world, where oppressive force from outside are greater. The tale of ‘아가씨’ 'Handmaiden' [Mademoiselle] is one of the overthrowing of power, and challenging the longstanding patriarchy and oppressive practices of male dominance in Asian traditions and cultures. The story illuminates ways in which women have had to silently navigate around limitations, boundaries, and expectations, to subvert, and at times overthrow, to secure agency and choice in life.
VOCALISTS // THE CAST
YVETTE KEONG (Soprano, Hideko)
Chinese-Australian soprano Yvette Keong is a unique performer who is passionate about the ability of classical music to enliven modern society by centralizing voices that need to be heard. She is a 2020 recipient of The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship, a top prize winner of The Gerda Lissner Foundation Lieder & Song Competition, and was an inaugural Renée Fleming Artist at the Aspen Music Festival, where sang as the soprano soloist of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. This season, she debuts with Annapolis Opera as Clorinda in La Cenerentola, and makes recital debuts at Carnegie Hall and National Sawdust. She originated the lead role of Iris Chang in Shuying Li’s opera When the Purple Mountains Burn in workshop at the Houston Grand Opera, and participated in SongStudio at Carnegie Hall, led by Renée Fleming. She is an alumna of the Houston Grand Opera Young Artist Vocal Academy. Yvette completed her Masters at The Juilliard School, where she performed as Adina in L’elisir d’amore and as Henrietta M. in Virgil Thomson’s The Mother of Us All in collaboration with Juilliard Opera and the New York Philharmonic. This summer, she joins the Marlboro Music Festival as a resident artist. https://www.yvettekeong.com
DAI WEI (Mezzo, Sook-Hee)
DAI WEI is a composer and vocalist whose musical journey navigates in the spaces between east and west, classical and pop, electronic and acoustic, innovation and tradition. She often draws from eastern philosophy and aesthetics to create works with contemporary resonance, and reflect an introspection on how these multidimensional conflict and tension can create and inhabit worlds of their own. Being an experimental vocalist, she performs herself as a Khoomei throat singer in her recent compositions, through which are filtered by different experiences and backgrounds as a calling that transcends genres, races, and labels. She was recently featured in The Washington Post’s “22 for 22’: Composers and Performers to Watch this year.” Described as “impassioned” by The New York Times and “with a striking humanity” by The Washington Post, her music has received commissions and performances by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Utah Symphony Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Reno Philharmonic, American Composers Orchestra, Opéra Orchestre National Montpellier, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Bang on a Can, and Aizuri String Quartet. Upcoming projects include new works for Alarm Will Sound, Curtis Symphony Orchestra 2023 West Coast and Asia Tour, Carnegie Hall Link Up program, and her new album. Dai Wei is a Ph.D. candidate in Music Composition at Princeton University. www.daiweicomposer.com/
HAN JEONGWOOK (Tenor, Uncle Kouzuki)
Korean Tenor Han Jeong Wook is originally from Seoul, Korea. He received his Bachelor of Art at Korea National University of Arts and his Master of Music at Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. He is currently the first Korean Formal Artist of the Japan Vocalist Association(JVF) and Tokyo International Association of Artists, two of the largest Japanese classical vocal associations. He has shown his operatic performances at Saitama City Opera and Opera Osaka, playing the roles of Rodolfo in La Boheme by G. Puccini, Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor by G. Donizetti, Alfredo in La Traviata and Il Duca di Mantova in Rigoletto by G. Verdi. Last season in South Korea, Han played the role of Hirobumi Ito, the historical colonial age figure in the early 20 centuries Korea and Japan, in the opera Be the wind and cloud by commemorating the establishment of the Korean Provisional Government at Seoul Arts Center and Busan Cultural Center. In addition, he has performed various modern works, including many classical opera works with the National Opera Company, National Theater of Korea, Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, Seongnam City Choir, and Goyang City Choir. In recent seasons in the U.S., Han was featured G. Puccini’s Il Tabarro as Luigi, G. Verdi’s Rigoletto as Il Duca di Mantova, La Traviata as Alfredo, Rimsky Korsakov’s Mozart and Salieri as Mozart, E. Kalman’s Die Csárdásfürstin as Prince Edwin, Gräfin Mariza as Count Tassilo with the principal Maryland opera companies, Opera Baltimore and Bel Cantanti Opera. Also, he has actively participated in representative American opera works, K. Mecheem’s Pride and Prejudice as Mr. Bingley and G. Baxter’s Lily as Seldon.
PAUL CHWE MINCHUL AN (Bass, Count Fujiwara)
Paul Chwe MinChul An is a Korean-American muti-disciplinary bass singer. Critically acclaimed by the New York Times, Opera News, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, he has originated over 20 operatic, theatrical, film and concert roles, in addition to performing over 50 roles in the canon in a career spanning two decades. As an operatic basso cantante, he has performed works from Monteverdi, Mozart, Verdi and Puccini to Meredith Monk with local, regional, and national companies such as LA Opera, San Diego Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Nashville Opera, Opera Santa Barbara, Orlando Opera, PROTOTYPE Festival, and Long Beach Opera. As an oratorio soloist and chamber musician, he has performed the works of early to contemporary masters with such groups as the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, Ensemble VIII, and Tenet in venues ranging from school gyms to Carnegie Hall. Although Paul does not consider himself fixed to one discipline or genre, he particularly revels in the collaborative process of originating roles. He is lucky to call giants like Meredith Monk, Kamala Sankaram, Ellen Reid, Yuval Sharon, James Darrah, Julian Wachner, Beth Morrison, Kristin Marting, Alex Gedeon, Bora Yoon his friends and collaborators. Adjacent to the stage, Paul Chwe MinChul An is working to carve out space for underrepresented artists. As a consultant to performing arts organizations, as well as member of the Queens Voice Lab, he is joining other beautiful and powerful voices to decolonize, abolish, build, and raise up institutions and communities.