Korean diva makes her Seoul debutAn opera that tells a beautiful and tragic love story is coming to Korea next week, with native-born talent singing the lead role.
“La Boheme,” one of Puccini’s most popular operas, opens Thursday at the Seoul Arts Center with internationally acclaimed singers, including Seoul native Hong Hei-kyung.
Ms. Hong, 46, a soprano who has been performing with New York’s Metropolitan Opera for more than 20 years, will be making her operatic debut in her homeland as the tragic heroine Mimi.
The opera, a Royal Opera House Covent Garden production, will be conducted by Julius Rudel, and will feature Richard Leech as Rodolfo, Mimi’s lover.
At a press conference on Monday, Ms. Hong said, “This is my first time performing in my country since 1972, when I left Korea. I’m very excited.”
In the past, Korean opera productions have tried to get Ms. Hong to perform here, but she has always declined.
“Opera is not something you do alone,” she said. “Many conditions must come together to make a successful performance. I was waiting for the perfect time.”
This production, directed by John Copley for Covent Garden, emphasizes the poetic and romantic qualities of the opera, as well as its beautiful and delicate music. “La Boheme” tells the story of struggling artists in the back streets of Paris in the 19th century, focusing on the love affair between a poet and woman with tuberculosis.
Ms. Hong particularly recommends the opera to people who have never seen one before, describing “La Boheme” as “compact” in terms of story, music and stage setting.
“It is not too long and not too short,” she said. “‘La Boheme’ has exquisite taste. People will definitely fall in love with it.”
A graduate of the Julliard School of Music, Ms. Hong has performed with the Metropolitan Opera in every season since 1984-85, for more than 150 performances of 19 different roles.
In January, she appeared in “Turandot” at the Royal Opera House in London.
She has appeared in “La Boheme” numerous times before. In June she will sing the role of Mimi at La Scala in Milan, Italy.
In 2003, she made her La Scala debut as Musetta, rather than Mimi, in “La Boheme.”
“Musetta was a fun role. It was a character that had all the qualities a woman can have,” she said. “Since I am a lyric soprano, I have sung Mimi most of the time. But I have Musetta’s qualities in me as well.”
She said of “La Boheme,” “I think all the characters in the opera are bohemians, romantic and artistic people who enjoy every moment in life.
“I see Mimi as a woman who enjoys life, rather than merely a tragic character,” she said.
“Opera can have various facets, depending on the singers,” she said. “I hope the audiences will enjoy the singers’ different styles.”
by Choi Sun-young
Performances run through March 12. Ticket prices range from 30,000 won ($30) to 160,000 won. For more information, call Seoul Arts Center at (02) 580-1300 or Ticketlink at 1588-7890.