For the Icon Jo Sumi, Coming Back Home Means a Sing and a PrayerIn a recent survey of 13,332 people on the Internet, Jo Sumi, a soprano, was chosen as the best-loved cultural or artistic figure in Korea. Ms. Jo's latest hit, "Only Love," sold a whopping 800,000 copies nationwide.
The opera singer became a popular icon last year by recording the theme song for "Heo Jun," a hit TV show, and by holding a joint concert with the pop star Jo Sung-mo. She also appeared at many important cultural events last year. She held an outdoor concert with Andrea Bocelli at the Suwon Outdoor Music Hall in Kyonggi province and performed with the North Korean Symphony Orchestra. She also sang in a performance congratulating President Kim Dae-jung on winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Such wide exposure across a range of genres and events has won her the same level of fame as enjoyed by top television and movie stars in Korea.
But Ms. Jo says she has a different aim for this year － to be faithful to her roots in classical music. She says she wants to show people her true vocation as an authentic classical singer by performing at classical recitals and operas. She is currently performing in "The Magic Flute," Mozart's famed opera, at the Palermo Theater in Sicily. The show will run until this Saturday.
After finishing her performance in Sicily, she will come to Korea in July to give eight performances and to promote "Prayers," her new recording with the G웦zenich Orchestra of Cologne, conducted by James Conlon and released on the Erato label. The recording features music that comes from various eras － ranging from Baroque to contemporary periods － but all the tracks are related to the theme of prayer.
Ms. Jo said in a telephone interview that for her, prayer is "a good habit and a way to seek the care and protection of the Almighty."
"I always pray and meditate just before going on stage or getting on an airplane," she said. She said that she hopes her new record will bring the same kind of peace she experiences through prayer to people living in pain or distress.
Even with this religious theme, the recording contains not just hymns but songs of many different genres including opera, stage musicals and folk music. While audiences may be unfamiliar with most tracks, the record does include well-known songs such as the gospel song "I Feel Like a Motherless Child," the hymn "Amazing Grace," "Ave Maria" by Giulio Caccini, "Pie Jesu" by Gabriel Faure, "Sanctus" by Charles Gounod and "Ave Maria" by Franz Schubert.
Ms. Jo will perform concerts in Pusan on June 29, Taejon on July 6, Chuncheon on July 12 and Kwangju on July 15. She will perform with the Boston Pops Orchestra, conducted by Keith Lockhart, at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in Seoul on July 25 and 26.
Her concert repertoire will include "The Bell Song" from "Lakme," an opera by Leo Delibes, "Ave Maria" by Caccini and "I Could Have Danced All Night" from the musical "My Fair Lady."
Ms. Jo will wrap up her Korean tour with a recital at the Sejong Center on July 29. She will sing tracks from her new record, "Prayers," accompanied by the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra.
For more information about the recital, contact the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra at 02-399-1630 (English service available).
by Lee Jang-jik