The gift of music with a voice ‘from above’

| January 5, 2015 | 0 Comments
World-renowned soprano Sumi Jo performed at Southam Hall in November.

World-renowned soprano Sumi Jo performed at Southam Hall in November.

Call her the Renée Fleming of Korea.
Soprano Sumi Jo has performed at Carnegie Hall, La Scala, the Royal Opera House and the Metropolitan Opera House. She has a Grammy award for best opera recording and she’s won opera’s biggest awards, including the International Puccini Award and La Siola d’Oro. If that’s not enough, she performed at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
And in late November, she added Ottawa’s Southam Hall to her list of performance venues. It was the Korean embassy that brought her to the National Arts Centre to perform for the people of Ottawa. The embassy rented the 2,200-person hall and offered every seat at no cost to those interested in the soprano’s work. Embassy officials spread the word through volunteer organisations associated with both of Ottawa’s symphonies and other interested groups.
For Ambassador Hee-yong Cho, it’s been a celebratory two-year period: 2013 was special in that it was the 50th anniversary of relations between Canada and Korea and also the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice. That same year was declared the Year of Korea in Canada and the Year of the Korean War Veteran. Then, in 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper went to Korea and Korean President Park Geun-hye came to Ottawa — the first such bilateral exchange since the 1960s. And because of the signing of a free-trade agreement that had long been in the works, 2014 was even more significant, Mr. Cho said. As such, the embassy decided to hold some special activities in November, Canada’s month of remembrance, as a way to spread Korean culture and to thank Canada’s Korean War veterans.
The concert took place Nov. 28 and more than 2,000 Ottawans came out for it. The best-selling artist performed with baritone Jean François Lapointe and L’Orchestre de Chambre I Musici de Montréal. A similar concert was held in Montreal and hosted by the Korean consul general there.
“We wanted to invite Korean War veterans and their proud families, and their friends,” Ambassador Cho said. “Without the sacrifices of the veterans, this fantastic relationship and the free-trade agreement would not have been possible. And in the special month of remembrance, we wanted to have some events to honour them.”
Over the course of her career, Sumi Jo has collaborated with figures such as Andrea Bocelli, Jonas Kaufmann and Jose Carreras, among others. She’s also performed with such orchestras as the Cincinnati Pops, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and  the Vienna Philharmonic.
Praise for her abilities has come from many corners. She has the voice from above; this is a voice one hears once in almost a hundred years, Maestro Herbert von Karajan once said.
At her concert in Ottawa, she performed Je Veux Vivre from Roméo et Juliette, Vilja Song from The Merry Widow and
Arirang Fantasy.

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