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Soprano Carries on Legacy of Bel Canto Technique

Posted February. 21, 2008 03:02,   


“I couldn’t feel my shoulders in the scene where (Luciano) Pavarotti sang with his huge hand on my shoulder. I was equally perplexed when I hugged him because my arms were too short to go around his large body.”

Soprano Kim Young-mi won the first Luciano Pavarotti International Vocal Music Competition in 1981 at the age of 27. She also got to perform in the opera “Una Furtiva Lagrima” next to the great tenor. Though Pavarotti was physically much bigger than the delicate-looking Asian soprano, her bel canto voice held its own against his. At the end of the show, Pavarotti praised her as the “Maria Callas of Asia.”

Considered the first Korean soprano to perform on the world stage, Kim will mark the 30th anniversary of her career in “Soprano Young-mi Kim: 30 Years of Opera & Bel Canto” at Seoul Arts Center on March 8.

After graduating from high school in Korea, Kim studied at Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome. She won her first competition at the Verona International Contest, and continued on her victory path at the Giacomo Puccini Contest, the Maria Callas International Opera Competition and the Luciano Pavarotti International Vocal Music Competition. Before she returned home in 1992 to work at Korea National University of the Arts, she toured major U.S. cities like Philadelphia, Houston and New York as a distinguished opera singer.

“These days, some opera singers effortlessly resort to easy vocalization,” she said. “However, they can only make superficial sounds and the resonance easily goes away. Audiences can appreciate the true value of Italian operas only when the singers use bel canto technique.”

Kim is one of the few Korean masters of the Italian vocal technique. With accompaniment from the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ottavia Marino, she plans to showcase the best of her bel canto in the upcoming performance together with baritone Goh Seong-hyeon and tenor Kim Nam-doo, who also studied in Italy.

“A true master of the bel canto technique will get into the skin of any role regardless of who wrote the opera, whether it be Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi or Puccini,” she said. “One’s voice is a valuable treasure bestowed by God. Therefore, we need to make the best use of it and pass on the technique to future opera singers.”

Ticket prices for her performance range from 20,000 to 100,000 won. For more information, call (02) 518-7343.