20 years on, soprano says career has ‘only begun’

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20 years on, soprano says career has ‘only begun’

She is the soprano everyone loves to hate. If she hadn’t been praised by the conductor Herbert Von Karajan as “the most outstanding coloratura soprano in 100 years,” referring to her highly ornate style of singing, she probably would never have had the reputation she enjoys today.
With this year being the 20th since Jo Su-mi made her debut, however, her reputation seems to be on solid ground.
At 44, Ms. Jo is busier than ever. She will soon launch a national tour of 12 cities, starting with a recital in Suwon on Sept. 5. She has also invited 850 music teachers from middle and high schools across the nation to a concert at Hoam Art Hall on Aug. 30. The JoongAng Ilbo held a telephone interview with Ms. Jo, who lives in the small town of Frascati about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) from Rome.

JAI: For you, 1986 was a special year. You made your debut by playing Gilda in Verdi’s “Rigoletto” at the Trieste Verdi Theater in Italy, and you took to the stage for the first time at the Salzburg Festival in Austria on an invitation from Mr. Karajan.
JO: My days have been busy ever since I got on the plane to Rome in 1983. By 1986, there wasn’t a stage I hadn’t stood on or a song I hadn’t sung. I was everywhere, crossing the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The diaries I’ve been writing since ’83 now fill 20 volumes. Even when I read them, I don’t know how time went by so fast. It’s a curious thing. I think I kept running fearlessly without looking back.
On the 30th at Hoam Art Hall, what exactly do you want to say to the music teachers?
I am very interested in fostering the cultural mentality of the younger generation through music. I am hoping to share my personal experiences with them, let them hear my music, because [teachers] have the most influence on music students. I obtained support from the Korea Arts and Culture Education Service. It’s only the beginning. I am hoping to tour across the country to meet with teachers in rural regions and host free concerts for students.

The repertoire for your upcoming recitals are a bit heavy, probably because it’s your 20th anniversary.
The programs are focused on Baroque arias and piano-based art songs. They’re difficult to digest for one show, but I got a bit ambitious (laughs). One of my favorites is Johann Straus’s “Where the Lemon Trees Blossom.” It’s work that highlights the lavish technique of coloratura soprano singing.

On Sept. 3rd, you are also scheduled for a separate concert at the Seoul Arts Center.
It’s a place to celebrate the 20-year anniversary with people who helped me on the way. The program is made up of some of my favorite songs, as well as a composition dedicated to me by Yuki Kuramoto, a Japanese New Age pianist. Lim Tae-gyeong, an opera vocalist, will appear in the show as well. The concert will be recorded and released on a DVD.

Who are some of your favorite singers and vocalists?
I highly respect the tenor Placido Domingo. I’d like to follow in his footsteps, both personally and musically. I’m also heavily influenced by the Australian soprano Joan Sutherland. In areas of pop, I think highly of the singing of Mariah Carrey and Christina Aguilera.


by Lee Jang-jik

Jo Su-mi’s recitals start on Sept. 5 at the Gyeonggi Arts Center, followed by shows at Busan Citizen’s Center on the 10th, Daejeon Culture and Arts Center on the 12th, Pohang University of Science and Technology’s auditorium on the 14th, Ansan Arts Center on the 16th, Chuncheon’s Baekryeong Cultural Center on the 19th, Geoje Munye Center on the 21st, Seoul’s Posco Center on the 23rd, Gwangju Culture Center on the 24th and Seoul Arts Center on the 27th. For more information, call (02) 751-9607.

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