The San Francisco Opera (SFO) announced on Thursday (local time) that South Korean conductor Kim Eun-sun will take the position of the opera company’s music director starting from August 1, 2021. The SFO, which was established 96 years ago in 1923, is considered to be one of the top two opera companies in the U.S. along with the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. With the recent announcement, Kim will be the first female director of an opera house in North America. The initial contract period is five years and she will conduct up to four operas per season.
The South Korean conductor showcased her SFO debut performance with Rusalka, an opera by Antonín Dvořák, in June this year and was well received by both media and audience. While attending the State University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart in Germany after completing a bachelor’s and master’s degree at the College of Music at Yonsei University, she won the first place at the Lopez Cobos International Opera Conductors Competition in 2008 and garnered attention from the global music community. She worked as an assistant conductor for globally renowned Daniel Barenboim and Kirill Petrenko and as a conductor at major European opera houses, such as the Berlin State Opera and the Oper Frankfurt, as well as at some of the well-known U.S. opera houses, including the Washington National Opera and the Houston Grand Opera.
Kim will conduct “Fidelio” by Beethoven as her second SFO performance in the 2020-2021 season before her official appointment as a music director after her predecessor Nicola Luisotti. Matthew Shilvock, the company’s general director, said that Kim who has considerate leadership connects the audience, artists, and theater technicians and managers, based on deep sympathy and respect and that she brings out the best capabilities from everyone with regards to the background to select Kim as the next music director.
“From my very first moments at San Francisco Opera, I felt this was home. There was an unusual feeling of open collaboration across so many facets of the Company — a real sense of professional alchemy. I’m deeply honored to be joining the San Francisco Opera family and helping to carry this incredible lineage forward,” Kim said on the SFO website on Thursday. During an interview with The New York Times published on the same day, Kim mentioned her grandmother born in 1912 who was described for years as a “female doctor” — but lived to see the day when women who practiced medicine were called, simply, “doctors.” “I also look forward to a future where the next generation will be called just ‘conductor,’” she added.