Soprano Sumi Jo keeps her promise with new album and concert

Soprano Sumi Jo speaks during a press conference held on Dec. 6 at Koreana Hotel in central Seoul for her new album ″In Love.″ [YONHAP]

Korea’s celebrated soprano Sumi Jo is holding a concert on Friday evening at the Seoul Arts Center in southern Seoul. Though she’s known for singing beautiful arias in other European languages, all the songs she’ll be singing during the upcoming concert will be in Korean and not in operatic style.

“In Love” is the name of the upcoming concert and Jo’s latest album. It consists of 11 songs of different genres that sing about love, ranging from gagok (original Korean vocal music) to pop.

“I think now is the perfect time to sing about love, and of course the perfect time to love,” Jo said during a press conference held recently in central Seoul for her new album.

“I promised my fans in the summer that I will present them with an album they will love around the time the first snow comes and here I am, keeping that promise,” she said. “Like lovers who are so in love that they don’t want to let go of each others hands, I can confidently say this album will never leave the hands of my fans this winter.”

Jo has released more than 40 albums in a wide array of music genres since her European operatic debut in 1986. But she said it seems like she’s put the most attention on and energy in creating this album, perhaps because the songs are outside her usual comfort zone.

“I released ‘Mother’ in 2019, which is another album that consists of Korean songs and I noticed that my Korean fans enjoy my classical music pieces but really fall in love with the Korean songs. I paid a lot of attention to not singing like a soprano, but use different singing techniques to record different types of songs,” she said.

For the album, she worked with her “friends” who will also join her on stage. Korean bass-baritone Gil Byeong-min worked with Jo for Kim Hyo-geun’s “First Love.” Cellist Hong Jin-ho, violinist Danny Koo, haegeum (Korean zither) player Nari and maestro Choi Young-seon with the Prime Philharmonic Orchestra also collaborated on the album.

“I can never forget about my first love,” said the 59-year-old singer. “It was back in the day when we didn’t have cell phones. My first love and I promised to meet each other in front of Gyeongbok Palace on the first day of the snow on a certain year. But I remember I was studying inside a library that day and I didn’t know it was snowing outside. After realizing the first snow, I remember just running toward the meeting point. Many years have gone by but I can’t forget that day, that first snow and that flutter. I sang all the songs with that emotion in my heart. I want to share that feeling of being in love with my fans this winter.”

Though it was tough trying to create an album with all her energy and heart, Jo says this album is like a "vacation" from her classical career.

“I hope people listen to this album when they want to relax,” said Jo. “It’s like grabbing a cup of coffee or a glass of wine to relax. Grab my album and have a merry Christmas.”

Tickets for Jo's concert range from 50,000 won ($39.20) to 150,000 won.