Original musical 'Beethoven Secret' set to make world premiere in Seoul

From left, choreographer Moon Seong-woo, set designer Oh Pil-young, EMK Musical Company CEO and executive producer Eum Hong-hyun, director Gilbert Mehmert, music supervisor Bernd Steixner and music director Kim Moon-jeong attend the press conference

After working night and day on the upcoming original musical “Beethoven Secret,” its creatives were all totally enamored with the famed German composer and pianist, during the show’s press conference at Gangnam District, southern Seoul, on Thursday.

“There is such a fervent intensity in Beethoven’s life that his passion and the way he works through his worries and problems is an inspiration to people even today, and I think that we can all be consoled by telling his story,” said Eum Hong-hyeon, EMK Musical Company CEO and Executive Producer.

“Beethoven lived a life that was filled with passion, despair, solitude and rejoice which have all been reflected in his music and it is an incredible honor to be able to bring Beethoven-inspired music to life,” said music director Kim Moon-jeong.

I don’t think I ever thought that I would be choreographing Beethoven’s music!” said choreographer Moon Seong-woo.

"Beethoven Secret" is about Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 -1827) during his 40s, from 1810 to 1812, with an emphasis on his secret love life with a woman named Antonie Brentano (1780 - 1869). She is widely speculated by scholars to be “the eternally beloved” referenced in letters found in his room after his death.

“It is sort of a musical rock opera, through which we hope to bring people who love classical music and those who love pop and musical songs,” said director Gilbert Mehmert. He has worked with EMK Musical Company in the past, for shows “Elizabeth,” “Mozart!” and “Rebecca.”

“It's a story about someone who died 200 years ago, and by bringing it on stage, we hope to find meaning as young people get to hear and feel his story,” said Eum.

The show is especially unique in that its score, composed by Sylvester Levay and lyrics written by Michael Kunze, reinterprets Beethoven’s actual music. The German duo is behind many hit musicals including “Elizabeth,” “Rebecca” and “Marie Antoinette.”

“As soon as I heard from Sylvester Levay a few years ago that he was planning to make a musical about Beethoven, I was very excited because personally, he was sort of like my musical hero growing up,” said the show’s music supervisor Bernd Steixner.

But Steixner was overcome with worry when Levay told him that he wanted to incorporate Beethoven’s actual music into the show’s score.

“I thought it was an absolutely crazy idea! Converting Beethoven’s music to make it singable could not have been an easy process, but Levay managed to masterfully solve it [...] So the current music in the musical contains Beethoven’s music from start to finish, but with the touch of Levay.”

Music director Kim, who is working with the actors and the orchestra to bring these songs to life, said that hearing Korean lyrics added to such prominent tunes was an incredible moment of pride, but practicing hasn’t been easy.

“These songs include very familiar melodies that people know as instrumental music without vocals,” she said. “The actors and I are trying to work on how to make it work with the vocals so that people don’t think that it is awkward when sung.”

EMK Musical Company, which is a local production company that is producing the show, has been working on “Beethoven Secret” for some seven years now. Producer Eum is confident that the final version of the show will be “world-class.”

“Initially, I think about seven other production companies in other countries wanted to produce this musical, so we were absolutely ecstatic that Levay and Kunze chose us to stage the production,” said Eum.

“This upcoming opening of the musical will be its world premiere. The show has been made to not only appeal to local audiences, but to the entire world as well.

“Beethoven is a figure who is respected around the entire world, and a big focus of the production was to relay his story respectfully and accurately. Our goal is for anyone who sees the show to be impressed with it.

Set designer Oh Pil-young said that while he designed the stage, he kept in mind that this show may open in other countries in the future

The role of Beethoven will be alternated between Park Hyo-shin, Park Eun-tae and Kai. Jo Jung-eun, Ock Joo-hyun and Yoon Gong-joo will alternate the role of Antonie.

“Beethoven Secret” will open at Seoul Arts Center Opera House in Seocho District, southern Seoul, on Jan. 12 and run through March 26.