Japanese fans aid Korean opera singer’s recoveryIn Sabriken, Germany, Korean tenor Bae Jae-chul, 37, shed tears of emotion when he received a classical music album from Japan. The solo album featuring his own voice was produced by a Japanese fan.
Mr. Bae is no longer able to sing. In the 1990s, the opera singer was acclaimed in Europe, but, while performing in Verdi’s “Don Carlo” in a theater in Sabriken in September 2005, he suddenly collapsed. He was subsequently diagnosed as suffering from a thyroid gland disease, which he had been unaware of.
When doctors surgically removed his thyroid gland, important nerve systems that were connected to the thyroid gland were removed as well. After the surgery, he was unable to speak, let alone sing.
On hearing the news, Bae’s Japanese fans began a movement to help him recover his voice. Dotaro Wajima, a music producer, who heard Bae during a concert in Japan in 2003, contacted Dr. Nobuhiko Ishiki, a world-renowned Japanese specialist in vocal chord reconstruction. Mr. Wajima arranged for Dr. Ishiki to operate on Bae in April this year with funds collected from Bae’s fans and charity concerts.
Bae has made progress and can now speak again without difficulty, but has not recovered enough to sing an aria. He started a rehabilitation program this month.
“I don’t know how to thank the Japanese enough because they gave me so much encouragement,” Bae said. “The only way to repay their kindness is to perform in front of my fans as soon as possible.”
Mr. Wajima produced 3,000 copies of Bae’s first solo album earlier this month, using his own money. He said Bae is one of the greatest Asian tenors of the past century.
“I only returned the inspiration Bae gave to the Japanese,” Mr. Wajima said. “Though I produced the first album, I’ll make every effort to help him recover and record another album.”
Bae has won such singing competitions as the Bilbao International Singing Competition and the Domingo Operalia Competition. He has performed in Italy, Spain and Hungary, and most recently in Germany.
by Yeh Young-june
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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