Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

J. C. Bach: Adriano in Siria

At this start of the year, Classical Opera embarked upon an ambitious project. MOZART 250 will see the company devote part of its programme each season during the next 27 years to exploring the music by Mozart and his contemporaries which was being written and performed exactly 250 years previously.

Bethan Langford, Wigmore Hall

The Concordia Foundation was founded in the early 1990s by international singer and broadcaster Gillian Humphreys, out of her ‘real concern for building bridges of friendship and excellence through music and the arts’.

Tansy Davies: Between Worlds (world premiere)

An opera dealing with — or at least claiming to deal with — the events of 11 September 2001? I suppose it had to come, but that does not necessarily make it any more necessary.

Arizona Opera Ends Season in Fine Style with Fille du Régiment

On April 10, 2015, Arizona Opera ended its season with La Fille du Régiment at Phoenix Symphony Hall. A passionate Marie, Susannah Biller was a veritable energizer bunny onstage. Her voice is bright and flexible with a good bloom on top and a tiny bit of steel in it. Having created an exciting character, she sang with agility as well as passion.

Il turco in Italia, Royal Opera

This second revival of Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser’s 2005 production of Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia seems to have every going for it: excellent principals comprising experienced old-hands and exciting new voices, infinite gags and japes, and the visual éclat of Agostino Cavalca’s colour-bursting costumes and Christian Fenouillat’s sunny sets which evoke the style, glamour and ease of La Dolce Vita.

The Siege of Calais
——
The Wild Man of the West Indies

English Touring Opera’s 2015 Spring Tour is audacious and thought-provoking. Alongside La Bohème the company have programmed a revival of their acclaimed 2013 production of Donizetti’s The Siege of Calais (L’assedio di Calais) and the composer’s equally rare The Wild Man of the West Indies (Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo).

The Met’s Lucia di Lammermoor

Mary Zimmerman’s still-fresh production is made fresher still by Shagimuratova’s glimmering voice, but the acting disappoints

Voices, voices in space, and spaces: Thoughts on 50 years of Meredith Monk

When WNYC’s John Schaefer introduced Meredith Monk’s beloved Panda Chant II, which concluded the four-and-a-half hour Meredith Monk & Friends celebration at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, he described it as “an expression of joy and musicality” before lamenting the fact that playing it on his radio show could never quite compete with a live performance.

St. John Passion by Soli Deo Gloria, Chicago

This year’s concert of the Chicago Bach Project, under the aegis of the Soli Deo Gloria Music Foundation, was a presentation of the St. John Passion (BWV 245) at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park.

Fedora in Genoa

It is not an everyday opera. It is an opera that illuminates a larger verismo history.

The Marriage of Figaro, LA Opera

On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.

The Tempest Songbook, Gotham Chamber Opera

Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Jihoon Kim [Photo by Marco Godoy]
16 Dec 2013

Jihoon Kim, Royal Opera House, London

Jihoon Kim is shining proof that the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House, London, develops singers into complete artists.

Jihoon Kim : Royal Opera House, London

A review by Anne Ozorio

Above: Jihoon Kim

Photos by Marco Godoy

 

Kim’s rich, resonant bass is much admired. During his two years as a Jette Parker Young Artist in 2011/13 he was cast in a wide range of roles at the Royal Opera House, from Alessio in Bellini’s La sonnambula and Colline in Puccini’s La bohème to the Ghost of Hector in Berlioz’s Les Troyens. After completing the Programme, he was offered a one year contract as a Royal Opera principal, covering more than 50 performances in the current season - in fact, when he sings Stimme der Wächter on the first night of Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten it will be his 100th performance on the main stage.

In Verdi Les vêpres sicilennes, Kim’s Robert was so distinctive that James Sohre wrote in http://www.operatoday.com/content/2013/10/londons_vespers.php, “As one would expect at Covent Garden, all of the minor roles were polished and poised, but I particularly enjoyed Jihoon Kim as Robert. The ROH is right to place such confidence in him and to nurture a performer of such accomplishment and real individuality. His rolling, dark bass surely has a bright future”. Watching the HD broadcast of that production, I noticed how often Director Stefan Herheim used Kim at many critical points in the drama, far more often than the actual singing part required. Kim appeared many times in close-ups because he has presence, even when he was not singing.

Particpants in the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme have considerable professional experience even before they join the scheme. The programme polishes these skills so they learn all aspects of their profession. Coaching includes languages, musical style, interpretation, stagecraft, acting and movement. There is more to being an opera singer than singing alone. Because the programme focuses on practical performance skills, Young Artists give individual recitals, as well as participating in main house productions. Jihoon Kim’s recital in the Paul Hamlyn Hall in the Royal Opera House in December 2013was unique, however, because he sang Korean Art Song, a genre almost unknown in the west.

JIHOON-KIM_02.gifJihoon Kim with ensemble

Korean Art song or Gagok are songs composed in the Western form. Borrowing the melody of hymns from the end of the 19th century Gagok began in the 1920s, when Korea was occupied by Japan, and continues to flourish today. In South Korea, classical music is cherished and music education standards very high. The songs describe mountains, woodlands and the simple life of Korean peasants, celebrating national culture and identity, much as Grieg and Dvořák did in Europe. The lyricism in the music of Gagok expresses nostalgia, but also a more subtle sensibility. “Deep in the woodland” writes the poet Donghwan Kim, set by composer Wonshik Lim in 1942, “a spring never seen or found trickles secretly……I take a sip, returning home with pleasure, for the spring will remain my own, secretly”

“Another aspect of Korean Art Song”, says Kim, “is that it mainly consists of a lyrical melody (cantilena), which does not require a trained vocalization, to be sung easily by the general public.” Kim is modest, though, for some of these songs are technically sophisticated and benefit from his sensitivity to musical form. Dongsu Shin’s Dear Mountain (1983) is a particularly beautiful song, allowing Kim to showcase the range of colours in his voice. In Hoon Byeon’s Pollack (1952), fast paced, ever-changing rhythms suggest the movement of a fish frolicking in the sea before it gets caught in a net. Kim sang with agile flexibility and freshness, quite unusual in his fach. The fish is “ripped to shreds, my body may disappear but my name will remain, as Pollack, Pollack, I will remain in this world”. There is humour in the song, but also bitter irony. The very fact that Kim was able to express these complex feelings to an audience who did not speak Korean shows how well he can communicate : a valuable skill in opera. Kim could convey meaning so well that many in the audience could follow the spirit of the songs, such as the drinking song, without needing translations at all.

Kim sang some songs accompanied by pianist Jean-Paul Pruna. Pruna, who was a member of the Young Artists Programme in 2010/12, postponed his return to Holland for his current engagement with Reisoper in order to take part. Kim also built the programme to include performances on traditional Korean instruments, in order to show how modern art song connected to traditional form. Hyelim Kim played taegŭm, a transverse bamboo flute. She played Chʻŏngsŏnggok, a melody used in Korean court circles. It was transposed an octave higher in parts to maximize the distinctive buzzing articulation of the membrane within the instrument, which acts as a kind of sympathetic resonator.

Hyunsu Song played the haegŭm, a two-stringed bowed string instrument. A percussion ensemble joined Kim and the other soloists for larger pieces, such as the three variations of Arirang. The Koreans in the audience started to clap in rhythm with the percussive pulse, underlining the changing shape and form. For westerners, who aren’t used to participating in classical music, this was quite an education.

For an encore, Kim sang a lullaby his mother sang to him when he was a baby. Although he was so young, he responded to the emotion in the song and used to weep. “Maybe it’s the song that made me become a singer”, he said. The ability to feel and express emotion is perhaps fundamental to the art of song. Kim sang the song first sotto voce, barely above a whisper, conveying the idea of a song heard as distant memory. Then he sang it again with confidence. We could hear the boy grown into a man with a bright future. I was very moved.

As an extra theatrical touch, Kim wore a hanbok, a spectacular silk costume, loaned by Somssimyoungga, the only luxury traditional company designing bespoke Korean garments. Kim thinks as an opera artist, who understands the importance of visual images. Kim also has exceptional organization skills, putting together the whole programme and people involved on his own initiative. Great attention to detail : at one stage, the bow of the haegŭm brushed too close to a microphone. Without missing a note, Kim bent over and fixed things.

This was a unique recital, from an unusually promising young singer who has justified the faith the Royal Opera House has placed in him.

Anne Ozorio

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):