Wednesday, October 17, 2012


ARTISTS CORNER:  This season, tenor Hak Soo Kim, last seen as Prince Ramiro in the fall 2010 production of La Cenerentola, makes two role debuts with Sarasota Opera.  The first will be in this falls production of Verdi's Rigoletto and the second will be during the Winter season in the role of Edoardo in Verdi's rarely seen A King for a Day.

We asked Mr. Kim to answer a few questions about life as a singer, preparing for his first Verdi roles and just how he came to singing in the first place.   

Tenor Hak Soo Kim
Q.  What drew you to become a singer? Was there a specific “Aha!” moment of clarity?

A.  When I was a senior in college, I met a wonderful professor from Germany, who taught Political Science but was also an avid opera fan. One evening at dinner, he asked me what my plans were upon graduation. I mumbled, "Maybe a banker?!"  He told me that I might regret not having the courage to pursue what I truly enjoy, especially when I am born with such a talent.  I thought about it and realized that he was right.  After all, my life's goal is to have no regrets.

Q.  You are singing both The Duke of Mantua (Rigoletto) and Edoardo (A King for a Day) this season.  What are you looking forward to most about performing these particular roles?

A.  Above all, this is my debut in a Verdi role, and I am just excited to be singing two different Verdi characters this season at Sarasota Opera.  Verdi was highly meticulous in his design and was quite specific about what he wants in his operas.  So, my goal as an artist is to do everything that he has asked for.  Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor and Verdi's Rigoletto are two of my favorite operas, and I am just excited to be offered the opportunity to be part of Verdi's masterpiece.

Q.  Is there something unique about your process for preparing for a role for performance?

A.  I do research on the operas I am singing as thoroughly as I can in great detail.  When I was gathering information on Rigoletto himself, I learned about microcephaly and ended up watching a clip of Schlitzie (an American sideshow performer born with microcephaly) in the movie "Freaks" released in 1932.  Seeing an actual person with microcephaly totally changed the way I would look at Rigoletto and how I would speak to him.

Q.  What do you want the audience to know about your character? What do you find most challenging about this role?

A.  I have always sung a lot of Bel Canto repertoire where I play the sweet lover.  Both Don Ramiro in Rossini's La Cenerentola and Conte Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia step out of their high social status to find someone who will love them for who they are, NOT for what they are.  The hedonistic Duke, on the other hand, exploits anything and everything he has in pursuit of a woman without a stint of conscience.  He is indeed the iniquitous one, "iniquo".  As much as I am a tenor, I am definitely not a womanizer, and it will be great fun to infuse my personality with the evil one.

Hak Soo Kim singing the famous tenor
aria "La donna e mobile" in rehearsal.

Q.  Thus far, what is the most bizarre experience you have had during a rehearsal? During a performance?

A.  Once, the waist stitching of my pants broke on stage.  So I had to sing my aria, with 4 high Cs, standing still with my legs slightly twisted so the pants would not go down in front of the audience.

Q.  Do you have any pre-performance rituals? Performance superstitions? Good luck charms? If yes, why?

A.  I try to sleep as much as I can so that my voice is well rested. In addition, I normally take a vocal rest a day before the performance.  I like having a full hearty meal a couple of hours before my call-time at the theater to have enough of a source of energy.  If I have a matinee performance, I work out lightly in the morning to make sure that my body is fully awake and running.

Q.  How do you relax in between performances? What hobbies do you enjoy at home and “on the road”?

A.  Between performances, I tend to be very careful about maintaining my physical well-being.  So, I try not to get sick.  I do not go to places where there are lots of people like a movie theater or a mall.  At home, I read, watch a movie or prepare myself for the next project.  I also enjoy learning about wine and food.  I particularly love Champagne and Sushi.  Outdoors, I like golfing and scuba-diving.

"On the road", however, I like driving around and riding a bicycle!

Q.  How do you stay connected to family and friends when you are “on the road”? Do you keep a blog? Website? Facebook? Twitter?

A.  I exchange text messages and use Skype with my family.  I also enjoy Facebook, although I try not to spend too much time on it.  I would love to start my own blog but I am afraid to take on additional responsibility when I actually have readers. Besides, I would talk about so many random things, and I have no idea how I would keep my blog organized and well-maintained.  For now, I am happy with my journals.  Perhaps, I will just publish them in print someday.

Mezzo soprano Heather Johnson and tenor Hak Soo Kim in the
fall 2010 production of Rossini's La Cenerentola.
Q.  Are there towns or cities that you have a strong connection with whether from growing up or attending school?

A.  New York has always been a special place for me.  I moved to NYC after spending school years in the Midwest.  No matter where my destiny took me, I just kept coming back to NYC.  I love the four distinct seasons in New York City, and more than anything else, I like the momentum of hardworking people.  I worked as a salesman in a luxury luggage company in Rockefeller Center and as a captain of a couple fine dining restaurants in TriBeCa.  I learned so many lessons from wonderful people and they continued to push me to be better in many facets of life.  I am proud to be a hardworking New Yorker who can blend in with folks coming home at 3am after a long day of work.

Q.  Are there any charities you are passionate about or donate your time?

A.  I grew up right across the street from a special school for the hearing impaired. It is quite ironic that I sing opera now. My parents in Korea spend their weekends at a care facility for deserted disabled children. One day, I hope to join my parents in one of their projects, giving those children their share of chances that they deserve.

You can see Mr. Kim on stage in one of the most famous roles for tenor in this season's fall production running October 26th through November 12th.  Tickets are available online at or by calling the Sarasota Opera Box Office at (941) 328-1300.

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