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Voice That Wagner Looked for

Posted February. 11, 2003 22:26,   


Bass Youn Kwang-chul, 39, was the vocalist who surprised Korean opera fans when he starred as Hermann, landgrave of Turingia in "Tannhauser," musical work of Richard Wagner, at the 2002 Bayreuth Wagner music festival in Germany. He was awarded the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s prize for young artists last year. He is having a recital, which is the second at home, two years and three months after the first recital in Korea. At 4:00 p.m. on March 9 at LG Arts Center.

Recently many young vocalists have been awarded at world-class musical contests and the number of Koreans cast in opera works played abroad is growing. However, the figure is still very low in German repertoire including Wagner’s works. In addition, Asians who have a small frame are said to be at a disadvantage as a bass singer. However, starring as a landgrave in "Tannhauser," staged in a country of Wagnerians, he was praised a lot as having a waterfall-like voice, the voice that Wagner had looked for by the German press.

He majored in musical education at Chongju University. Then he got education at the Bulgarian National Academy of Music and Berlin Academy of Music. He made his first debut at world stage when he got a prize at an international contest in Paris founded by Placido Domingo. Two years later, he established his unshakable position in the German musical world as he came on stage at the Bayreuth Wagner music festival.

When I met him in 1998, he was cast for a minor role, a night watchman in "Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg." But he elicited the loudest applause in the whole cast with the minor role. His voice is so sweet like a sound echoing out of an old wine barrel. Director Wolfgang Wagner spoke highly of his voice, saying, "I want to listen to his voice again though fresh faces are cast for other roles. However, last year the role of a night watcher was passed on to another Korean vocalist Chun Seung-hyun.

At present most bass singers are very tall Europeans. A case in point is Martk Talvela with a threatening look, an icon representative of the 1970s’ bass world. However, Yoon Gwang-chul with a small body has mastered the repertoire of Talvela. He was also highly praised as a soloist with Mahler’ Symphony at a music festival for the 2002 Sidney Olympics.

At this recital, he is scheduled to sing "Die Zauberflote" of Mozart, and "Robert Le Diable" of Meyerbeer and a Gesang of Schubert. Ahead of the recital, from Feb. 24 he will work on his soloist album. 20,000-40,000 won. 02-2005-0114

Yoon-Jong Yoo gustav@donga.com