Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

ROH Return to the Roundhouse

Opera transcends time and place. An anonymous letter, printed with the libretto of Monteverdi’s Le nozze d’Enea con Lavinia and written two years before his death, assures the reader that Monteverdi’s music will continue to affect and entrance future generations:

London Schools Symphony Orchestra celebrates Bernstein and Holst anniversaries

One recent survey suggested that in 1981, the average age of a classical concertgoer was 36, whereas now it is 60-plus. So, how pleasing it was to see the Barbican Centre foyers, cafes and the Hall itself crowded with young people, as members of the London Schools Symphony Orchestra prepared to perform with soprano Louise Alder and conductor Sir Richard Armstrong, in a well-balanced programme that culminated with an ‘anniversary’ performance of Holst’s The Planets.

Salome at the Royal Opera House

In De Profundis, his long epistle to ‘Dear Bosie’, Oscar Wilde speaks literally ‘from the depths’, incarcerated in his prison cell in Reading Gaol. As he challenges the young lover who has betrayed him and excoriates Society for its wrong and unjust laws, Wilde also subjects his own aesthetic ethos to some hard questioning, re-evaluating a life lived in avowal of the amorality of luxury and beauty.

In the Beginning ... Time Unwrapped at Kings Place

Epic, innovative and bold, Haydn’s The Creation epitomises the grandeur and spirit of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment.

The Pearl Fishers at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its recent production of Georges Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles Lyric Opera of Chicago assembled an ideal cast of performers who blend well into an imaginative and colorful production.

New Cinderella SRO in San Jose

Alma Deutscher’s Cinderella is most remarkable for one reason and one reason alone: It was composed by a 12-year old girl.

La Cenerentola in Lyon

Like Stendhal when he first saw Rossini’s Cenerentola in Trieste in 1823, I was left stone cold by Rossini’s Cendrillon last night in Lyon. Stendhal complained that in Trieste nothing had been left to the imagination. As well, in Lyon nothing, absolutely nothing was left to the imagination.

Messiah, who?: The Academy of Ancient Music bring old and new voices together

Christmas isn’t Christmas without a Messiah. And, at the Barbican Hall, the Academy of Ancient Music reminded us why … while never letting us settle into complacency.

The Golden Cockerel Bedazzles in Amsterdam

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s fairy tale The Golden Cockerel was this holiday season’s ZaterdagMatinee operatic treat at the Concertgebouw. There was real magic to this concert performance, chiefly thanks to Vasily Petrenko’s dazzling conducting and the enchanting soprano Venera Gimadieva.

Mahler Das Lied von der Erde, London - Rattle, O'Neill, Gerhaher

By pairing Mahler Das Lied von der Erde (Simon O'Neill, Christian Gerhaher) with Strauss Metamorphosen, Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra were making a truly powerful statement. The Barbican performance last night was no ordinary concert. This performance was extraordinary because it carried a message.

David McVicar's Rigoletto returns to the ROH

This was a rather disconcerting performance of David McVicar’s 2001 production of Rigoletto. Not only because of the portentous murkiness with which Paule Constable’s lighting shrouds designer Michael Vale’s ramshackle scaffolding; nor, the fact that stage and pit frequently seemed to be tugging in different directions. But also, because some of the cast seemed rather out of sorts.

Verdi Otello, Bergen - Stuart Skelton, Latonia Moore, Lester Lynch

Verdi Otello livestream from Norway with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Edward Garner with a superb cast, led by Stuart Skelton, Latonia Moore, and Lester Lynch and a good cast, with four choirs, the Bergen Philharmonic Chorus, the Edvard Grieg Kor, Collegiûm Mûsicûm Kor, the Bergen pikekor and Bergen guttekor (Children’s Choruses) with chorus master Håkon Matti Skrede. The Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1765, just a few years after the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra : Scandinavian musical culture has very strong roots, and is thriving still. Tucked away in the far north, Bergen may be a hidden treasure, but, as this performance proved, it's world class.

Temple Winter Festival: the Gesualdo Six

‘Gaudete, gaudete!’ - Rejoice, rejoice! - was certainly the underlying spirit of this lunchtime concert at Temple Church, part of the 5th Temple Winter Festival. Whether it was vigorous joy or peaceful contemplation, the Gesualdo Six communicate a reassuring and affirmative celebration of Christ’s birth in a concert which fused medieval and modern concerns, illuminating surprising affinities.

Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida at the Wigmore Hall

The journey is always the same, and never the same. As Ian Bostridge remarks, at the end of his prize-winning book Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, when the wanderer asks Der Leiermann, “Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?”, in the final song of Winterreise, the ‘crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again’.

Turandot in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera wrapped up its 95th fall opera season just now with a bang up Turandot. It has been a season of hopeful hints that this venerable company may regain some of its former luster.

Daniel Michieletto's Cav and Pag returns to Covent Garden

It felt rather decadent to be sitting in an opera house at 12pm. Even more so given the passion-fuelled excesses of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which might seem rather too sensual and savage for mid-day consumption.

Manitoba Opera: Madama Butterfly

Manitoba Opera opened its 45th season with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly proving that the aching heart as expressed through art knows no racial or cultural divide, with the Italian composer’s self-avowed favourite opera still able to spread its poetic wings across time and space since its Milan premiere in 1904.

Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake celebrate 25 years of music-making

In 1992, concert promoter Heinz Liebrecht introduced pianist Julius Drake to tenor Ian Bostridge and an acclaimed, inspiring musical partnership was born. On Wenlock Edge formed part of their first programme, at Holkham Hall in Norfolk; and, so, in this recital at Middle Temple Hall, celebrating their 25 years of music-making, the duo included Vaughan Williams’ Housman settings for tenor, piano and string quartet alongside works with a seventeenth-century origin or flavour.

Girls of the Golden West in San Francisco

Not many (maybe any) of the new operas presented by San Francisco Opera over the past 10 years would lure me to the War Memorial Opera House a second time around. But for Girls of the Golden West just now I would be there again tomorrow night and the next, and I am eagerly awaiting all future productions.

DiDonato is superb in Semiramide at Covent Garden

It’s taken a while for Rossini’s Semiramide to reach the Covent Garden stage. The last of the operas which Rossini composed for Italian theatres between 1810-1823, Semiramide has had only one outing at the Royal Opera House since 1887, and that was a concert version in 1986.

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):