A fire broke out last night in the Opera House at the Seoul Arts Center, about 15 minutes into a performance of Puccini's La Bohme by the National Opera of Korea. Smoke quickly filled the Opera Theater, the house's largest auditorium, and some 2,400 audience members, performers and theater staff were evacuated, according to The Korea Times. While no one was seriously injured, about 60 people were treated for smoke inhalation at a nearby hospital.
Audience members told the newspaper that they first noticed the flames, incredibly, at the point in Bohme's opening scene when Marcello and Rodolfo burn pages from the latter's manuscripts to ward off the bitter cold. Performers claimed that the flames began backstage.
Police questioned performers and staff to determine the cause of the fire; an opera house official said that legal action would be taken if appropriate.
Some concern has arisen about the safety equipment in the opera house: audience members told The Korea Times that the sprinkler system did not activate when the smoke and flames appeared. Fortunately, no fewer than 32 fire trucks arrived on the scene and the blaze was extinguished in 23 minutes.
No assessment of the damage the Opera Theater sustained in the fire has yet been released, but the two remaining performances of Bohme, tonight and tomorrow, have been cancelled. The Arts Center's management will announce whether or not the performances of The Nutcracker scheduled for Dec. 20-29 will proceed once the condition of the building has been determined. All performances in the Opera House's two smaller theaters and in the Seoul Arts Center's other buildings are going on as normal.