2 divas bring powerful vocals, new material to Korea’s hallsTwo sopranos are in town this week. One started singing in Italy, the other in Korea. But both Hong Hei-kyung and Lucia Aliberti have covered similar musical ground and mastered it, establishing international renown.
Hong Hei-kyung, who is based in New York City, has been active with the New York Metropolitan Opera for 20 years. As a young start-out, fresh out of Julliard School of Music, legend has it that Ms. Hong refused to play operatic roles such as Gilda in “Rigoletto” and the title character in “Madam Butterfly,” roles which are often reserved for Asian prima donnas but which tend to define their careers, leaving them with little flexibility for future roles.
Instead, Ms. Hong prudently chose her roles according to her talents ― an combination of balanced timbre and remarkable vocal range.
On the other hand, the debut of the Italian soprano Lucia Aliberti was in the nimbus of the late Maria Callas. Her vocal quality and appearance ― right down to her slight figure ― make her, in the eyes and ears of some, a ringer for Ms. Callas, something that excited her initial audiences. Moreover, Ms. Aliberti has concentrated on the Italian bel canto repertoire, as did Callas.
The bel canto style of singing, in which the beauty of a melody is brought out through the ease and evenness of the singer’s tone, was popularized in the era of Rossini and Donizetti, in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Because of the amount of sheer control involved in executing bel canto with perfection, it often shows not the strengths but the limits of the human voice.
Callas revived the classic Italian bel canto repertoire, and Aliberti has made an effort to extend it beyond where Callas dared to go, adding lesser-known musicians, both modern and classical, to her repertoire.
Aliberti, however, has declined to be known as the “second Callas.” While maintaining Callas’s dramaticism, Aliberti’s is a more delicate delivery.
There is another thing that Aliberti has that Callas did not: a talent for composition. She has composed pieces for flute and piano as well as songs.
In Aliberti’s upcoming performance in Korea, alongside works from Bellini, Verdi and Puccini, audiences will be able to hear her own “Raggio d’Amore,” which is a song as rhythmically complex as it is resounding in its emotive power.
by Kang Jin-ae
Hong Hei-kyung will be touring Korea, going to Daegu, Ulsan and Busan from Sept. 21 to 27. Visit www.loveart.co.kr or www.psart.co.kr. Lucia Aliberti will perform on Sept. 23 at the LG Arts Center, southern Seoul, beginning at 8 p.m. Prices range from 30,000 won ($25.50) to 60,000 won. For more information, call 02-2005-0114, or visit www.ticketlink.co.kr.