Thursday, December 16, 2010

REVIEW: Sumi Jo with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

Two years ago, I went to see Sumi Jo (also with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra). I was sitting on the first row of the circle (literally right in front of her) and was pleasantly surprised on how fantastic she sounded. This year, I thought that I would sit on the last row of the circle (the farthest I can) and see whether I can still hear her and enjoy the concert...

Below is the link to my review with the TIME-OUT magazine of her performance with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Zhang Guoyong:


Posted in Time-Out Hong Kong Online on December 16 2010

Sumi Jo Live in Hong Kong
5 out of 5 stars

Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Saturday 11 December 2010

Rarely does one associate classical music with the word “show”, unless you are the type who goes to the classical section of a shop and ends up buying cd’s of Sarah Brightman or Katherine Jenkins. But in Sumi Jo Returns, part of Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra’s Great Performers Series, the Korean soprano gave Hong Kong a “show” that the full-house-audience lapped up with a standing ovation.

Supported by the HKPO and maestro Zhang Guoyong, the show was a mixture of opera arias punctuated with orchestral music to allow Jo a little rest and more-than-a-little costume change. Most of the orchestral works were dispatched in a customary way, almost as if the orchestra simply gave up trying and thinking the audience were there only for Sumi Jo. In particular, the Prelude to Act IIIof Verdi’s La Traviata and Spring of Verdi’s I Vespri Siciliani were lacking of any Italianate energy. With the arias, the orchestra did better and was careful not to drown out Jo.

It is always a welcome opportunity to see an opera star performing as her individual self rather than a character in an opera. Here, Jo indeed shamelessly showcased a whole lot of herself. She flung out big arias (from Bellini’s I Puritani to Bernstein’s Candide) with exquisite tones, impressive accuracy, and oodles of high, occasionally dizzyingly drawn out, notes. Everything she did was designed to entertain and please, be it her three gowns, each flashier than the last; or the dramatic way she turned to the choir stall audience and back, all while sustaining a top note. Attempts to dig deep emotionally or to communicate the arias in character were kept minimal. Instead, Jo charmed the audience with her solid technique, her personality, and a fine balance of self-importance and self-deprecation. Overall, it was a night of solid entertainment.

Satoshi Kyo

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