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Song Is like Flower Blooming in Ordeal

Posted September. 17, 2002 23:06,   


Mezzo-soprano Baek Nam-ok (55, professor at College of Music of Kyunghe University, picture) will hold a vocal recital at Hoam Art Hall in northern Seoul at 5:00 p.m. on Sept. 29. Already three years have passed since he held the recital celebrating his record titled Memory. All through the interview, he said, “I will reach the age of 60 in several years.” But she still has a clear voice and graceful appearance as she did when she was young.

“I think I can sing well even at this age. Am I too self-confident? Of course, my voice is not as good as it was but I do not feel exhausted or frustrated. It might be because I always feel thankful.”

In her heyday, she enjoyed a great career. In 1969, when he was attending Seoul National University’s college of music, she had her first recital, and during 1973-76, when she was studying in Berlin, Germany, she was chosen as a soloist of a symphony orchestra and made a tour concert, becoming famous in Europe. In 1979, she became a professor at Kyunghee University at 32.

“People think that I might have lead a well-off life without many difficulties. But I had a hard time and I suffered a lot of ordeal. This ordeal made me continue to sing, I think.”

She experienced her parents’ divorce in childhood, and her mother passed away when Ms. Baek was 32. She suffered from a serous illness in the early 80s. However, she refused to say the name of the illness.

“My father did nothing for me. He turned away from me, so I used to hate him. But when I visited him about two years ago, first in almost 10 years, I had a feeling that he gave me voice. The hate was from my obsession with him.”

Does she not miss her splendid past? She also took the stage of opera a lot but she gave up at 39 because she had trouble in juggling the house chores and the career.

“When I didn’t pay much attention to the home, I was likely to be divorced by my husband. I think I could sing for a long time because I had no greed. Once a person ran up the career ladder, he or she cannot come down it. If I had become a world-class vocalist, how arrogant I would be now? I just thank for what I am.”

On stage she always wear hanbok, Korean traditional clothes, and do her hair up in a bun in a traditional way. Asked if she wears the Korean traditional dress, hanbok because she looks good dressed in it, she replied, “It is our clothes.

She will sing only lieder (German songs) at the recital, such as F. Schbert’s “Der Hirt aut Dem Felsen,” Johannes Brahms’ songs including “Deim blaues Auge,” and and Gustav Mahlers’ songs.

“Chopin is said to have carried a bottle containing the earth of his country with him whenever he had recital tours. It seems natural that a Korean wears hanbok. Sing Germal songs in hanbok… It will be great.”

Soo-Kyung Kim skkim@donga.com