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Soprano goes solo to keep it positive

SUMI Jo is one of her generation's most sought-after sopranos.

Born in South Korea, she started singing lessons at the age of six and studied in her native country before enrolling in the Conservatory of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Italy. Her first operatic role was as Susanna in Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro," which she also sang in Seoul.

Jo has won many awards including first prizes at international competitions in Seoul, Naples, Enna, Barcelona and Pretoria. In August 1986 she was unanimously awarded first prize in the Carlo Alberto Cappelli International Competition at Verona, one of the world's most important contests, open only to first-prize winners of other major competitions.

She was elected a UNESCO "Artist for Peace" in 2003. She lives in Rome.

In 2001 at Carnegie Hall, Jo gave her first public performance of Broadway songs from the million-selling album "Only Love."

Jo sang with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra at the Shanghai Concert Hall last month.

We spoke to her just before the concert.

Q: What do you think of working with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra?

A: I was so surprised to learn that the SSO has 130 years of history and it is an honor to cooperate with them.

Q: What's your impression of Shanghai?

A: I have always dreamed about visiting this city, and now I'm here. I hope I will have time to visit the Expo site, as I will represent the 2012 Yeosu Expo.

Q: What's your impression of Chinese musicians?

A: I know Chinese conductor Yu Long, cellists Wang Jian and Yo-Yo Ma, and pianist Lang Lang. All of them are outstanding musicians from China. There are also many young Chinese kids now studying music in Europe and the United States, and many of them are musical geniuses. I am proud of them as an Asian and happy to see more and more talented Chinese musicians on the international stage.

Q: Is there a difference between working with Western musicians and Asian musicians?

A: It's a pleasure to have the chance to collaborate with so many outstanding musicians. When I collaborate with Westerners, I am doing my best to prove myself, my talent as an Asian artist. When I cooperate with Asian musicians, I have more passion because of our shared culture.

Q: You have held several solo concerts in China. Have you considered singing opera in China?

A: At present I prefer to give performances in China as a soloist, because I want to give a more positive message through my singing. Most operas have too many tragedies. Chinese audiences need to be happy.

Q: How do you deal with difficulties in your career?

A: As a musician from Asia, there are particular difficulties. I have even met some Western conductors who refused to work with me just because I am Asian. But all these difficulties are part of life. I believe in destiny and God shows me the way to go. I have confidence in my talent as a soprano and I have friends and family around to support me during any hard times.


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