Sumi Jo (조수미; Korean pronunciation: [tɕo su.mi]; born 22 November 1962) is a Grammy Award-winning South Korean lyric coloratura soprano known for her interpretations of the bel canto repertoire.
Life and career
Early life and education
Jo was born Jo Su-gyeong [tɕo sʰuɡjʌŋ] in Changwon, South Korea. Her mother was an amateur singer and pianist who had been unable to pursue her own professional music studies because of politics in Korea during the 1950s. Determined to provide her daughter with opportunities she never had, Jo's mother enrolled her in piano lessons at the age of 4 and later voice lessons at the age of 6. As a child, Jo would often spend up to eight hours a day studying music.
In 1976, Jo entered the Sun Hwa Arts School from which she graduated in 1980, receiving dual diplomas in voice and piano. She continued her music studies at Seoul National University from 1981 to 1983. While studying at SNU, Jo made her professional recital debut, appeared in several concerts with the Korean Broadcasting System, and made her professional operatic debut as Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro with Seoul Opera.
In 1983, Jo left SNU in order to study at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome. Among her teachers were Carlo Bergonzi and Giannella Borelli. While Jo studied in Italy, she was frequently heard in concert in Italian cities and on national radio broadcasts and telecasts. It was during this time when Jo began to use "Sumi" as her stage name in order to make her name more friendly to European language speakers who often found it difficult to pronounce Su-gyeong. She graduated in 1985 with concentrations in keyboard and voice.
Following graduation, Jo began to study with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and won several 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 in Verona, one of the world's most important contests, open only to first-prize winners of other major competitions.
In 1986, Jo made her European operatic debut as Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto at the Teatro Comunale Giuseppe Verdi in Trieste. This performance drew the attention of Herbert von Karajan, who proceeded to cast her as Oscar in Un ballo in maschera opposite Plácido Domingo for the 1989 Salzburg Festival. Karajan's death during festival rehearsals prevented Jo from actually singing on stage under his baton (Georg Solti conducted the performances) but she did sing under Karajan in the studio recording of Ballo, made in the early months of 1989 for Deutsche Grammophon.
In 1988, Jo made her La Scala debut as Thetis in Jommelli's Fetonte. That same year she made her debut with the Bavarian State Opera and sang Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro at the Salzburg Festival.
In 1989, Jo made her debut with the Vienna State Opera and returned to the Salzburg Festival to sing Oscar in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera. That same year, she made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera, once again portraying Gilda in Rigoletto. Jo would later reprise this role numerous times with the Met over the next fifteen years.
In 1990, Jo made her debut with the Chicago Lyric Opera as the Queen of the Night in Mozart's The Magic Flute. The following year, she returned to the Metropolitan Opera for another performance as Oscar in Un ballo in maschera and made her Royal Opera, Covent Garden, debut as Olympia in The Tales of Hoffmann. She returned to Covent Garden the next year to sing Adina in L'elisir d'amore and Elvira in I puritani.
In 1993, Jo appeared in the title role of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor with the Metropolitan Opera and sang the role of the Queen of the Night at the Salzburg Festival and Covent Garden. The following year she made her debut with Los Angeles Opera as Sophie in Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier. In 1995 she sang the role of Countess Adèle in Le comte Ory at the Aix-en-Provence Festival.
Over the next decade Jo maintained a busy schedule, singing Lucia in Strasbourg, Barcelona, Berlin, and Paris; La sonnambula in Brussels and Santiago, Chile; I Capuleti e i Montecchi with Minnesota Opera; Olympia and Rosina in New York; the Queen of the Night in Los Angeles; Gilda in Bilbao, Oviedo, Bologna, Trieste, and Detroit among others; Il turco in Italia in Spain; L'enfant et les sortilèges in Boston and Pittsburgh; Le comte Ory in Rome; and Dinorah in New York. She also appeared in performances at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Opéra National de Paris, Washington Opera, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Opera Australia, and the Teatro Colón.
In addition, she appeared with numerous symphony orchestras in concert, including the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Pops, the Orchestra of St. Luke's, the Vienna Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra among others. Her work led her to sing under such conductors as Sir Georg Solti, Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, James Levine, Kent Nagano, and Richard Bonynge. She also gave recitals throughout Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia.
In 2007, Jo performed her first Violetta in La traviata with the Toulon Opera and in the 2008/2009 season she was scheduled to perform the role of Zerline in Fra Diavolo at the Opera Comique and Opéra Royal de Wallonie.
In 2011 Jo provided the singing voice of Veda Pierce in the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce.
On 9 March 2018, Jo performed a specially-recorded duet with fellow vocalist Sohyang, the song "Here As One", during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Academy Award nomination and exclusion
"Simple Song Number 3", written by David Lang, performed by Jo, and featured in Paolo Sorrentino's 2015 film Youth, was nominated for an Academy Award in 2016 in the Best Song category. Fellow nominees were "Manta Ray", performed by Anohni; "Til It Happens to You", performed by Lady Gaga; "Earned It", performed by The Weeknd; and "Writing's on the Wall", performed by Sam Smith (who won the category's award). Although Jo was invited to the ceremony and attended, she was not invited to perform the song. Anohni, a transgender singer, was similarly excluded and subsequently boycotted the ceremony. The other nominees performed their songs during the ceremony.
On the red carpet prior to the ceremonies, Jo and Lang voiced their disappointment with the producers' decision to exclude the song, indirectly referencing the controversy related to that year's Academy Awards and its lack of racial diversity.
Jo is the cousin aunt of South Korean actor Yoo Gun, his father's cousin sister.
Although Jo's family lived in a rented property, her parents bought a piano for her to play. Her mother raised and trained Jo strictly. Jo recalled even when her mother went out, she locked the door outside so that Jo couldn't play truant.
She had studied music with a scholarship in Sunhwa Arts Junior-High School and Sunhwa Arts High School for six years, and marked the highest score in the history of Seoul National University (SNU) entrance exam, for her vocal performance.
Just before she performed Ave Maria at Chatelet, Paris, in 2006, Jo's father, Enho Jo, died. When she learned that her father had died, she wanted to cancel the performance and return to South Korea for the funeral. Her mother reminded Jo of her promise to her audiences, and said that it was better if she went on with the show in honor of her father. Her performance was dedicated to her father and released as a DVD titled Sumi Jo in Paris – For my Father.
She has been claimed as "a voice from above" by Maestro Herbert von Karajan. Jo is an advocate for animal rights and one of only five Asian celebrities to make People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Asia-Pacific's (PETA) first-ever Best-Dressed 2008 list.
She sang the theme song for the Korean Broadcasting System's broadcast of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, "The Champions".
Jo has over 50 recordings to her credit, including ten solo albums for Erato Records, the French division of Warner Classics. These recordings include complete operas, oratorio, operetta, orchestral works and Broadway standards. Notable recordings include the voice of the falcon in Sir Georg Solti's Grammy Award winning recording of Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten for the Decca label and the role of Oscar the page in Herbert von Karajan's recording of Verdi's Un ballo in maschera for Deutsche Grammophon.
Carnaval! French Coloratura Arias, Decca (November 15, 1994)
- Compilation – Best of Sumi Jo, Decca (February 4, 2009)
- Compilation – Art of Sumi Jo, Decca (August 11, 1998)
Erato – Warner Classics
- Bel Canto, Arias from Semiramide, La sonnambula, Falstaff, I puritani, I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Linda di Chamounix, Tancredi, Crispino e la comare, La traviata. English Chamber Orchestra, Giuliano Carella. Erato (16 September 1997)
- Sumi Jo Sings Mozart (or Dear Amadeus), Erato (1 October 1996)
- Live at Carnegie Hall, St Luke's Orchestra, Richard Bonynge, Erato
- Baroque Journey – arias by Vivaldi, Purcell, Handel, Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra. Erato (November 13, 2007)
- Virtuoso Arias: from Il Barbiere di Siviglia, La sonnambula, Lakmé, Rigoletto, Dinorah, Lucia di Lammermoor, Ariadne auf Naxos, Candide, Korean song "Boribat" (barley field 보리밭). Monte Carlo Orchestra, Paolo Olmi. Erato (7 February 1995)
- The Christmas Album, Alessandro Scarlatti: Cantata pastorale per la nascita di Nostro Signore. Christoph Bernhard: Fürchtet euch nicht! Mozart Exsultate, jubilate K165. Cappella Coloniensis of the WDR on historical instruments. Erato (18 September 2001)
- Prayers, Erato (March 20, 2001)
- Only Love, musicals Miss Saigon etc. Erato (11 April 2000)
- Johann Strauss Echoes from Vienna Erato (9 November 1999)
- Les Bijoux – French Arias, Roméo et Juliette "Je veux vivre", Faust (L'air des Bijoux) "Ah! Je ris de me voir si belle en ce miroir!", Mignon "Oui, pour ce soir, je suis reine des fées". L'étoile du nord "C'est bien l'air que chaque matin". Hamlet "À vos jeux, mes amis". Louise "Depuis le jour". Mireille "O légère hirondelle". Les Huguenots "O beau pays de la Touraine". Manon "Obéissons quand leur voix appelle". Les pêcheurs de perles "Me voilà seule". Robinson Crusoé "Conduisez-moi vers celui". ECO, Giuliano Carella, Erato (August 3, 1999)
La Promessa – Italian Songs, Erato (15 September 1998)
- Sumi Jo The Erato Recitals (10 CDs) Erato (31 January 2012)
- The Sumi Jo Collection Warner Bros UK (18 January 2010)
- Sumi Jo 101: Favorite Crossover and Classics (6CDs) Warner Music Korea (2007)
- With Love: Best 20 Songs of Sumi Jo (2 CDs) Warner Music Korea (2006)
- My Story (2 CDs) Erato/Warner Music Korea (2002) including a vocal version of "Love is just a Dream," from non-vocal version was in MBC drama "Hotelier" O.S.T. (2001).
Universal Korea – Deutsche Grammophon Korea
- Missing You – songs of the world – Universal Korea DG (10 August 2010)
- Ich liebe Dich – German lieder – Universal Korea DG (17 August 2010)
Libera – Universal Korea, DG (2011)
- single "Hijo de la Luna" (sung in Spanish but entitled "Son of the moon", 달의 아들) (2011, Universal Korea)
- Sumi Jo with Tomomi Nishimoto in concert CD and DVD
- La Luce – Sumi Jo sings Igor Krutoy with Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Lara Fabian – Universal Korea (2012)
- Only Bach – Cantatas for Soprano, Violin & Guitar – Universal Korea DG (2014)
Korean local labels
- Ari Arirang – Italian arias and Korean songs – London Philharmonic, Stephan von Cron (1995, worldwide release 1998, Samsung Music)
- Saeya Saeya (새야 새야) Italian arias and Korean songs. The Korean Symphony, Nanse Gum (1994, Samsung Music)
- Compilation Jo Sumi – Her first purely Korean folk album – Hyangsu (조수미 – 그녀의 첫번째 순수 한국가곡집 – 향수) 20 Korean tracks only, from two previous Korean albums. [鄕愁] (2002, E&E Media)
- Verdi: Un ballo in maschera with Plácido Domingo, Jean-Luc Chaignaud, Josephine Barstow, Florence Quivar. Vienna Philharmonic, Vienna State Opera Chorus. Herbert von Karajan. DGG 1989.
- Adolphe Adam: Le toréador, Richard Bonynge, Decca (17 March 1998)
- Daniel Auber: Le domino noir. Richard Bonynge (2 CDs) Decca (9 April 1996)
- Königin der Nacht in Die Zauberflöte, Georg Solti. Decca (1990)
- Königin der Nacht in Die Zauberflöte, with Franz-Joseph Selig, Gösta Winbergh, and Luba Orgonasova. Armin Jordan Erato (1989)
- Königin der Nacht in Die Zauberflöte, with Kurt Streit, Barbara Bonney Drottningholm Court Theatre Orchestra, Arnold Östman. L'Oiseau Lyre (1992)
- Zerbinetta in R. Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos (original 1912 version), Kent Nagano. Virgin Classics (1997) This was the first recording of 1912 original version of R. Strauss and required Sumi JO hit the F♯6 note in Zerbinetta's aria.
- Offenbach: Les Contes d'Hoffmann with Roberto Alagna, Natalie Dessay, and José van Dam. Kent Nagano. Erato
- Rossini: Le comte Ory with Diana Montague, Gilles Cachemaille, Gino Quilico, Nicolas Rivenq, John Aler. Orchestre et Choeur de l'Opéra de Lyon John Eliot Gardiner, Philips.
- Rossini: Il turco in Italia with Simone Alaimo, Sir Neville Marriner, Philips.
- Rossini: Tancredi with Ewa Podleś. Alberto Zedda. Naxos
- Bellini: Norma with Cecilia Bartoli. Giovanni Antonini. Decca
Guest performances and film music
- Kenny G 'Rhythm & Romance' Featuring with Sumi Jo – Mirame Bailar
- MBC epic drama "Ju-mong" O.S.T. (2006) Sumi Jo – A Memory of Love
- KBS drama "The Lost Empire" O.S.T. (2 CDs) Doremi, Korea (2001.12.03) Sumi Jo – If I Leave
- MBC drama "Hu-jun" O.S.T. (1999) Sumi Jo – Elegy of Separation (Bulinbeolgok)
- Wojciech Kilar, vocalise for the soundtrack of the 1999 film The Ninth Gate.
- Cover version of the title song of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 2010 musical Love Never Dies.
- Several of Sumi Jo's recordings were used as the character Veda's singing voice in the 2011 HBO miniseries version of Mildred Pierce. She recorded new tracks specifically for the film, including the "Bridal Chorus" from Wagner's Lohengrin and the popular standard "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows."
- She performed "Simple Song Number 3" by David Lang at the end of the film Youth (2015)
- DVD "Sumi Jo in Paris – For my Father" (2006)
Awards and honors
- 2008 – Sumi Jo received the international Puccini Award
- 2008 – Sumi Jo sang at the International Olympic Games in Beijing
- 2006 Winner of the Proud Korean Award for Culture and Art
- 2005 7th Winner of KwanAk Award by Alumni Association of Seoul National University
- 2003 – Sumi Jo was elected as an "Artist for Peace" of UNESCO
- 2002 – Sumi Jo sang at the World Cup in Seoul, Korea
- 2002 18th Woman of the Year by Korea Women Committee
- 1997 Best Vocal Album by French Cultural Critics
- 1997 Winner of 5th KBS Overseas Korean Award
- 1996 Winner of 1st Korean-Chinese Youth Academic Award
- 1996 The Best Selling Album of the Year award by British Classic
- 1995 Decorated with the Order of Culture Merit, South Korea
- 1995 Grand prize winner of Women Dong-a by Dong-a Daily News, Seoul, South Korea
- 1994 Winner of Best Soprano, Chile
- 1994 Winner of Kim SuGeun Award for Performing Art, Seoul, South Korea
- 1993 Winner of La Siola d'Oro, Forli, Italy
- 1993 Winner of Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording (conducted by Sir Georg Solti, Deca label)
- 1992 Winner of Hong Nanpa Memorial Award
- August 1986 First prize in the Carlo Alberto Cappelli International Competition at Verona
- October 1986 Graduated with honors from the Santa Cecilia Conservatory
- 1986 Winner of Pretoria International Music Competitions, South Africa
- 1985 Winner of 'Francisco Viñas' International Singing Competition,Barcelona, Spain for Best Female Voice, Best Male Voice went to Samuel Cook.
- 1985 Winner of Viotti International Music Competition (Concorso Internazionale di Musica Viotti), Italy
- 1985 Winner of Sicily Enna International Musical Competition, Italy
- 1985 Winner of Napoli Zonta International Competition, Italy
- 1985 Winner of Viotti International Music Competition, Trieste, Italy (Concorso Internazionale di Musica Viotti)
- Wolf Artists: Sumi Jo
- Raphaelle Occhietti & William Sanger, Sumi Jo chante le bel canto (Le Polyscope, 12 October 2008)
- Sumi Jo: Devoted to Music
- Sun Hwa Arts School website
- Biography for Sumi Jo – WindowsMedia.com Media Guide
- LA Phil Presents | About the Performer – Sumi Jo
- Deutsche Grammophon: www.deutschegrammophon.com
- Culture – Korean
- Metropolitan Opera Association Archived 2008-02-03 at the Wayback Machine.
- Lyric Opera of Chicago: www.lyricopera.org Archived 2008-09-28 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Sumi Jo with the VSO!" at LSM Newswire (4 January 2008)
- "Oscar-Nominated Performers Call Academy Snub 'Very Sad'".
- 유건, “소프라노 조수미가 내 5촌 고모”
- NO.1 뉴미디어 마이데일리
- 국내연예 뉴스 > 조수미무릎팍 '너무나도 혹독했던 피아노 연습?'
- 조수미, 아버지 장례식날 독창회 무대 올라 “어머니 서운했다” – 뉴스엔
- Korean soprano Sumi Jo designated UNESCO Artist for Peace – UNESCO Celebrity Advocates | UNESCO.org
- PETA Asia-Pacific | Media Resources | Recent News Releases | Su-Mi Jo Makes PETA's Exclusive Best-Dressed List Archived 2011-07-15 at the Wayback Machine.
- on YouTube
- Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos, Etc. / Nagano, Price, Jo, Et Al | ArkivMusic
- Yahoo! Groups
- David Ng (2011). "The Operatic Highs and Lows of Mildred Pierce". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
- Roddy, Michael. ""Candy-wrapper music" hits sweet spot in Cannes "Youth" movie". Reuters. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
- 조수미 “오 사랑하는 나의 아버지” 앙코르 ‘눈물의 사부곡’ :: 네이버 뉴스
- Top Operatic Singers from the World Greet Olympic Guests-Olympics-China News-News-English-东北新闻网
- Vancouver Symphony Orchestra – The Concerts – Artist Bios Archived 2007-12-19 at the Wayback Machine.
- ESPNsoccernet.com World Cup 2002: Hiddink: Koreans closing the gap
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