The Song of Ch’unhyang is one of the most popular p’ansori pieces in the genre’s classic repertoire. Its story is simple. Ch’unhyang (“Spring-Fragrance”) is the beautiful daughter of a deceased aristocrat and Wŏlmae, a retired kisaeng. Her ambiguous social status becomes the key dramatic complication when she falls in love with Yi Mongnyong, the young and handsome son of the provincial governor. They privately marry, but after a blissful though brief time together they are separated as Yi’s family moves to the capital of Seoul when his father earns a position in the court. Time passes, and, in the absence of her husband, Ch’unhyang’s life is thrown into turmoil when a new governor of the province demands that Ch’unhyang serve him as his mistress, an order she refuses to obey even at the threat of death. On the brink of her execution, her husband returns as a covert Royal Inspector to punish the corrupt governor and is reunited with his beloved Ch’unhyang.
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