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World-famous soprano Jo Sumi's mother dies at 85

Posted August. 09, 2021 07:22,   

Updated August. 09, 2021 07:22


"My mother locked me in a room and ordered me to practice the piano for eight hours a day when I was a young girl. Back then, I was really mad at her but later started to understand that it was my mother who made me the way I am now,” said South Korean soprano Jo Sumi at a press conference following the release of her album titled "Mother” in 2019.

Kim Mal-soon, the mother of the world-renowned soprano, died at the age of 85 on Sunday morning. After diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease 10 years ago, she spent the rest of her lifetime in hospital bed. Jo released an album titled "Mother” in recognition of her mother's love. On Parents’ Day this year, Jo

had a recital titled "My Mother” to express gratitude to her mother at a concert hall in Seoul Arts Center.

Jo said in an interview with The Dong-A Ilbo in 2004, “I remember elders of my neighborhoods saying that I would be able to live a long and healthy life only when I learn to play a musical instrument. That is why my parents paid for my piano lessons although struggling financially. As her mother wanted to become a soprano when she was a young lady, Jo's dream was determined when she turned out to be a talented vocal music student. "Maria Callas was my mother's favorite soprano. Whatever I was ordered to do, I did my best. However, vocal music was by far the most special field both to my mother and me,” Jo recalled.

Attending Seoul National University, Jo went to the Santa Cecilia Academy as recommended by her mother and teachers. When she had a chance to have an audition for Verdi’s “Un Ballo In Maschera” scheduled to perform in the Salzburg Festival in 1987, world-famous conductor Herbert von Karajan chose her as “Oscar” to lay the foundation for her to become a worldwide prima donna. Jo’s mother would always be a harsh critic of her performance. Jo once said on a show, “My mother has not given me any compliment at all.”

Awarded a prize by the South Korean government in 2003 in recognition of her contribution to producing the world-class soprano, Jo’s mother stayed firm even when her husband passed away in 2006, telling her daughter not to visit the funeral but to go onstage in Paris as scheduled. Prior to the concert at Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, she notified audiences of her father’s death and completed the performance successfully.

Even while abroad, Jo would sing over the phone for her mother whose memory faded away according to a theory that music-related memories survive the longest, said Jo’s agency SMI Entertainment. “Jo is currently in Rome, Italy. She is not able to come back to South Korea to attend her mother’s funeral due to quarantine issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” it announced.