Monday, February 24, 2014


Tenor Hak Soo Kim
Korean-American tenor Hak Soo Kim returns to Sarasota Opera this season as The Count Almaviva in Rossini's The Barber of Seville. Last season, Mr. Kim won critical acclaim for his virtuosic performances of both the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto as well as Edoardo di Sanval in the 2013 winter production of A King for a Day (Un giorno di regno).  Mr. Kim's other recent appearances include Los Angeles Opera, Accademia Rossiniana in Pesaro, Italy, Opera New Jersey as well as in concert with the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. 

Continue reading to learn what has kept Mr. Kim returning to Sarasota for four productions as well as what specialty hobby he practices in between performances.    

Q. Where are you originally from and where do you base yourself out of today?
A. I am originally from Seoul, Korea.  I came to the U.S., when I was 17 years old to become a diplomat. Now, I base myself in New York City, where I have a fabulous support system of friends, mentors and teachers.

Mr. Kim as Gastone in La traviata at Los Angeles Opera
Q. Why Opera?  What drew you to become a singer?
A. I love singing, simply because it makes me feel great.  Opera is so multi-faceted that, no matter how much I study, it still remains mysteriously challenging.  In other words, I can never get bored.  Besides, I always ended up getting back to singing, no matter how much I tried to venture into other career paths--in college I majored in German and Economics and was on the verge of becoming an investment banker, and recently, I worked as a captain and sommelier at a restaurant with two Michelin star rating in New York City.  In the end, though, nothing else makes me happier but singing on stage!

Q. What singing did you do as a teenager?
A. I sang at the school musicals for all four years in high school.  Fortunately, the private boarding school that I attended, Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, OH, had a great theater program, and I was able to fully take advantage of the resources.  I sang Frederic in Pirates of Penzance, Billy Lawlor in 42nd St, Nanki-Poo in Mikado and John Jasper in The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Mr. Kim as the Duke of Mantua in
Rigoletto at Sarasota Opera
A. Your past three operas with Sarasota Opera have all been role debuts, correct?  Is it nice to sing a role you have already done somewhere else?
Q. Yes, "Repetition is the mother of perfection."  As long as I keep my standard high, there is always room for improvement, and the best and the simplest way to improve oneself is through repetition.  Besides, even though this is my fourth production of The Barber of Seville, I feel that my journey is different every time. We are using a different edition of the score, Maestro Cormio takes different tempos from other conductors I have worked with, and the cast has different chemistry.  It definitely is an exciting process to mold my previous experiences into what we have here in Sarasota.

Q. What are you looking forward to most about performing the role of Count Almaviva in this season’s production of The Barber of Seville?
A. I am excited about bringing my own vocal interpretation of the role.  Maestro Cormio and I are working particularly on bringing more lyric legato lines and unifying them into Italian poetry with more directional rhymes, instead of fast, jumpy and light singing.

Mr. Kim as Ernesto in Don Pasquale at Opera Colorado
Q. What is your process for preparing a role for performance?
A. First, I start by finding and reading the original literature.  Secondly, I move to the poetry of the libretto with focus on rhymes and accents.  Then, I focus on designing how I am going to sing the role.  Because every role has its unique challenges, I need to figure out how I am going to move my voice through those passages.  During rehearsals, I concentrate on how I am going to pace myself, singing and acting.  The Barber of Seville especially needs this game plan, since the role of Count Almaviva is such a marathon role vocally.

Q. What do you want the audience to know about your character?  What do you find most challenging about this role?
A. Count Almaviva is unfortunately not that smart in this opera.  His eagerness to find his true love dictates his behavior.  He is looking for someone to love him for who he is, not what he is.  Therefore, he does not want to reveal his true identity.

This role is extremely difficult, because of its sheer length.  I open the opera with an aria and close the opera with one of the toughest arias for tenors.  Throughout the performance, I disguise as a student, drunk soldier, music teacher and come back as a count, which means that I am constantly changing costumes and wigs, even when I am not on stage.  I never get to rest during the entire performance, and that is just exhausting. The role of Count Almaviva calls for a lot of athleticism.

Mr. Kim as Matteo in Strauss' Arabella at Santa Fe Opera
Q. As I mentioned before, this will be your fourth opera with Sarasota Opera.  You must enjoy singing here. What do you think makes Sarasota Opera so special that people return season after season?
A. The support system here is incredible--music staff and administrators are always there to help me in any means possible.  In addition, there is a wonderful group of patrons, ushers, and supporters whom I have gotten to know better since my debut season in 2010.  It just has been a great experience to be working in this company.

Q. Thus far, what is the most bizarre experience you have had during a rehearsal?  During a performance?
A. Fortunately and unfortunately, I really do not have any bizarre episode during rehearsals or performances.

Q. Do you have any pre-performance rituals?  Performance superstitions?  Good luck charms? 
A. My pre-performance preparation starts from the day before the performance.  I go on vocal rest to make sure my voice is fresh for the day of the show.  Then, on the very day, I just make sure that my body is fully awake and has a good rate of metabolism--I eat and exercise.  I also make sure that I am very well hydrated before the performance, because I know for sure that I will be sweating a lot out there.

Mr. Kim as Edoardo di Sanval and soprano
Danielle Walker as Giuletta in Verdi's A King for a Day 
Q. How do you relax in between performances?  What hobbies do you enjoy at home and “on the road”?
A. Last July, I passed three-day long exams to be a certified sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers. So, I definitely enjoy wine to relax between performances.  Like opera, wine requires a life-long study. Whenever I grow weary of a musical journey, I pick up a wine book and a glass of wine, and my soul gets recharged.

I also enjoy bike-riding, golfing, scuba diving and skiing, depending on the season and where I am.

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. Last December I deactivated my Facebook account because I felt that I was getting too distracted.  I wanted to use my time more wisely.  Then, I received so many messages from my friends all over the world to open it back up, as they wanted to be updated on where I am and what journey I am taking whether it is on wine, restaurant or opera.  So, I crawled my way back to the Facebook empire.

Don't miss your chance to hear Mr. Kim's dazzling vocalism as Count Almaviva in Rossini's The Barber of Seville now through March 21st.  Tickets are available at or by calling (941) 328-1300.

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