Go to contents

Jo Su-mi: K-classical singing is highly advanced enough to train overseas singers

Jo Su-mi: K-classical singing is highly advanced enough to train overseas singers

Posted June. 05, 2023 07:50,   

Updated June. 05, 2023 07:50


“I believe that South Korea has come a long way even to teach classical singing trainees from other countries,” world-famous South Korean soprano Jo Su-mi said in an interview with The Dong-A Ilbo at the Korean Cultural Center in Brussels on Saturday (local time). It was the last day of the final round of the Queen Elisabeth Competition where Jo was part of the jury for the voice section. She commended the South Korean education system for classical singers as a well-designed disciplinary framework, adding that participants trained in the nation surprised her with their perfect German pronunciation and musical prowess.

As the first Asian prima donna ever in the European classical music arena - where Asians rarely performed- Jo is filled with joy and excitement every time younger South Korean performers stand out on the global stage. Likewise, her eyes got tearful when she heard about South Korean baritone Kim Tae-han's winning the competition early Sunday morning.

"I often used to be turned down in many opera auditions just because of my oriental looks and attitude when I worked in the early 1980s. I had no option but to try to look and behave like Western people. However, things have changed. The fact that you are from South Korea guarantees that you are proficient.”

Jo said that communication skills with audiences, charisma, character, and linguistic proficiency make a great vocal singer, adding, “Musical techniques are only the basics. I don’t even care while evaluating performers.”

Asked what drives her to work vigorously even in her 60s, she answered, “I stay motivated almost always. Even when I sometimes struggle, I try to figure out if I am in a slump, what makes me stressed, and what I can do about it by writing like a professional author.” To junior singers who struggle career-wise, she gave a helpful message: "Sentimental and sensitive people, just like performers, are supposed to keep the flames of their inner world intact. Anyone who attempts to put them out is the last person who would be a friend.”

Jo released a plan to hold “The Sumi Jo International Singing Competition” scheduled next year in a castle near Paris, France.

Eun-A Cho achim@donga.com