Sumi has established herself as one of her generation’s most sought-after sopranos, praised for her outstanding musicianship and the remarkable agility, precision and warmth of her voice.
Engagements in the 2017-18 season included gala concerts in Budapest, Paris, at the Colosseum in Rome and Teatro Colón in Bogota; recitals with guitarist Xuefei Yang across Asia; two performances at the Kremlin Palace, Moscow, including an appearance at the Bravo Awards 2018; a tour of Australia including a guest appearance with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra; joining the jury and giving masterclasses at the inaugural Hong Kong International Vocal Competition and a recital at the Opera Theatre Clermont-Ferrand.
Plans for the 2018/19 season and beyond include a gala concert with the Sun Symphony Orchestra , Hanoi; appearing with Andrea Bocelli’s on tour in the UK and Ireland; an appearance at the New Year’s Eve gala with the Xian Symphony Orchestra, concerts as part of the Shanghai Concert Hall’s 30th anniversary celebrations; a recital at London’s Wigmore Hall and further touring projects, concerts and masterclasses across Korea, China and Europe.
Video & Audio
From The Green Room
19 Jul 18 REVIEW: Mad for Love Tour City Recital Hall Sydney Sounds Like Sydney
“Soprano Sumi Jo had early success in her career after being included in the Salzburg Festival by Herbert von Karajan aged only 24. By the late 1980s Miss Jo was an international star noted for her bel canto technique, effortless coloratura and high ranging vocal tessitura. Her lively portrayals in opera won her many followers, and her career flourished through the 1990s when she was in great demand at the major opera houses of the world.
Miss Jo has reached a very broad and admiring audience through her recordings and recitals, often paired with popular male singers, notably including the great Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. She appeared last for Opera Australia as Lucia di Lammermoor in the early 2000s and has toured Australia since in recital. The audience for her recital in Sydney this week included long-standing fans and also a significant number of Korean followers of all ages. True to her diva status earned over decades, Sumi Jo delivered a varied programme of songs, arias and duets.
Renowned for her spectacular princess like gowns, she performed in four different glamorous costumes over a two-hour programme including interval. Beginning in a brilliant red and looking every inch the great soprano, Jo was at her most captivating in Auber’s C’est L’histoire Amoureuse from his Manon Lescaut (a popular operatic story set also by Massenet and Puccini). The character and musical genre suited her perfectly and the French language was both clear and idiomatic. The agile coquettish soubrette sparkled in this aria. Her second gown was rich netted black with floral violet accents and again she was perfectly at home as Norina from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale in the duet Pronto Io son with José Carbó as her brother Dr Malatesta, guiding her in feigning ways to succeed in the seductive arts .
It is no mean feat for a light soprano to be convincing as she matures, playing characters often decades younger – the young lover or ingénue. Rare are roles such as the Queen of the Night where maturity and coloratura go hand in hand, but Sumi Jo with her pretty, petite appearance and cheeky antics encourages the suspension of belief. Vocally, Miss Jo still scales the heights of the coloratura range and floats her pianissimi with a command of bel canto morbidezza. At her best, one was reminded of the astonishing beauty of tone and bravura flourishes she shared at the height of her career…
…Sumi Jo saved one of her finest arias for the end of the programme. Qui la voce sua soave from Bellini’s I Puritani suited her very well. The limpid sweetness of the slow aria was followed by a bravura cabaletta. She entertained the audience with plenty of high jinks, even performing the Rossini Cat Duet ‘with catlike tread” kitty ears and entirely catlike vocals.
This duet was humorously supported from the keyboard by pianist Guy Noble who also acted as a genial master of ceremonies throughout the evening. It was a delight to hear him play the Steinway and accompany with style and sympathy over a range of repertoire…”
19 Jul 18 REVIEW: Mad for Love Tour Melbourne Recital Centre Classical Melbourne
“There might not have been much madness as promised in Sumi Jo’s recital at the Melbourne Recital Centre, but there was certainly a lot of love. And it wasn’t just in the arias, duets and songs. Sumi Jo has won hearts around the world for her thrilling lyric coloratura soprano voice, her artistry and her engaging personality. Her unique combination of attributes have resulted in her having the distinction being an Artist for Peace at UNESCO and an artist who represents South Korea.
A vision of feminine porcelain perfection, Sumi Jo made a stately entrance wearing a magnificent multilayered red gown, the first of four extravagant concoctions that were an integral part of her performance. In her 2012 Melbourne concert at Hamer Hall she had twirled around, pointing to the outsized bow on her gown, sharing the pleasure of wearing something visually exciting and beautifully crafted with her audience. She is a diva who couples a strong sense of theatre with an endearing playfulness.
These qualities are also evident in the way she negotiates the abundant flights of coloratura that seem tailor-made for her voice. Every note was crystal clear in the resonant acoustic of the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall as she demonstrated why her stratospheric upper range, astonishing agility and expressive warmth have made her the highest selling classical singer in the world. Her soft singing in particular was marked by purity of tone and animated energy as she poured out cascades of notes in fine bel canto style. Benedict’s “La Capina” (The Wren), that opened the concert, and Alyabyev’s “The Nightingale” were perfect songbird vehicles for showcasing her technical brilliance.
Purcell’s “Music for a While” might have seemed a surprising choice, but it gave listeners an opportunity to hear another dimension of Sumi Jo’s artistry. A peaceful mood with its gentle fall of “drop, drop, drop” contrasted well with the coloratura flourishes of “La Capinera”. With piano lid all but closed, Guy Noble’s deferential accompaniments were always responsive to her expressive singing. In his customary honey-toned, relaxed ABC radio style, he introduced Argentine Australian baritone, José Carbó, best known to the audience for his outstanding performances with Opera Australia. Carbo began a vibrant account of Rossini’s “Largo al Factotum” offstage, sweeping listeners away with beautiful ringing tone and expansive dramatic skills. He followed this with “No Puedo Ser” from a zarzuela by Sorozábel.
In a program encompassing a surprisingly wide range of music and languages, two contrasting songs from Sumi Jo’s home country were a must. Sung in Korean, details of the text could not be understood by most of the audience but the yearning sentiment of “Longing” and the delight in “Flower Clouds” were communicated effectively. In addition to repertoire sung in Italian, English, Spanish and Korean, popular items by Lehar, Strauss and Korngold provided a German component. Of course, “Lippen Schweigen” from The Merry Widow was also a cue for a graceful waltz.
Several duets gave an opportunity for Sumi Jo and Carbo to make the most of comic opportunities and have fun. Donizetti’s “Pronto lo Son” showed what she could do in the way of vocal colouring and acting as they explored ways to fool Don Pasquale. It was an uplifting way to end the first half of the program. The most unexpected duet came during the encores. It began with her head, crowned with cat ears appearing mischievously around the stage entrance. The willing accompanist entered decked out in his own cat ears to join her in Rossini’s “Cat Duet”. Her melodious yowling, punctuated by the occasional hiss, suggested Sumi Jo might have a tiny cat gene buried in her DNA, so convincing was it. Guy Noble’s various duties made him much more physically involved and prominent as a fellow artist than is usual in a concert.
In the famous duet from Porgy and Bess, Sumi Jo and Carbo sang with tenderness and passion, reveling in the joys of love, but the aria that followed and concluded the concert proper was genuine bel canto madness. Bellini’s “Mad scene” from I Puritani moved from the most beautiful and poignant expression of forlorn sadness to a dazzling display of bravura singing. It was mad for love at its most compelling.”
16 Jul 18 'Sumi Jo’s voice leaps over musical tall buildings in a single bound' Mad for Love Tour: Adelaide Festival Centre The Advertiser
” KOREAN coloratura soprano Sumi Jo may be in the later stage of her illustrious career but she retains plenty of evidence of the extraordinary talent that propelled her to the world’s opera stages thirty years ago.
If vocal gymnastics count for anything, then she has it all – an impressive ability to leap over the musical equivalent of tall buildings in a single bound.
More significant is the dynamic control that enables her to take the highest notes softly or suddenly change a note from loud to soft for expressive effect. Her control of vibrato is equally impressive.
These qualities were amply on display in Caro Nome from Rigoletto, the Audition Song from Die Fledermaus and especially in The Doll Song from Tales of Hoffmann, in which Sumi Jo appeared on stage in an astounding dress – one of several – that looked like a Dolly Varden cake. Her fan fell apart during the aria, but this just added to the fun.
Baritone Jose Carbo joined Sumi Jo for several duets, notably the lively Pronta Io Son from Don Pasquale, beautifully sung with a lot of amusing stage business.
In fact this program largely avoided opera’s well known propensity for tragedy – nobody died – staying very much on the lighter side.
Jose Carbo contributed some fine solos from opera and zarzuela.
Guy Noble was both the witty host, and conductor of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, whose excellent contribution was rightly acknowledged by both singers.”
17 Jul 18 'Sumi Jo scales the high notes with startling ease' Mad for Love Tour: Adelaide Festival Centre The Australian
“Somehow the much in-demand South Korean soprano Sumi Jo has managed to squeeze an Australian tour lasting barely a week between her international commitments. A downside is that she was backed by an orchestra only at her Adelaide appearance. In other cities she will be accompanied by piano, which is a pity because to sample her full capabilities one really wants to hear her supported by orchestra.
Truly the queen of divas, Jo excels in effervescent coloratura roles, and with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra it was all there to enjoy. Not pure and static, as with some other singers, Jo’s voice continually changes in mood and colour. It has a soft, generous warmth with, in moments of dramatic intensity, a throaty edge that may recall Maria Callas, except that Jo’s control is more refined.
In Gounod’s Je veux vivre from Romeo et Juliette, she swung in with a wonderfully voluble warble to set the scene of Juliet’s lovesick dreaming. Liberal in her treatment of tempo, she applied tender tugs of phrase as the melody wandered in far-off directions before she scaled its high notes with startling ease.
Jo’s abilities in the stratosphere are renowned. She pulled off another big test in the soprano repertoire with equal alacrity. In Caro nome from Verdi’s Rigoletto she dwelled even more daringly in the top range.
Jose Carbo is no mere accessory to Jo. He was an effective counterfoil in arias by Rossini and Korngold, and in a handful of duets the two singers bounced off each other amusingly. As a singer he may not be in the same class as Jo, but Carbo has a particular force of presence and his diction was clear and intelligible throughout. The two singers came together beautifully on stage in several of the show’s high points. Their repartee in Lippen Schweigen from Lehar’s The Merry Widow was one. Jo gives Carbo the come-on while checking out the conductor: it’s a real tease.
Palpably enjoying the occasion, too, was the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Under Guy Noble’s consummately smooth direction it played with finesse.
This concert consisted of a lot of flossy fun. Soaring above it all were Jo’s superb artistry and communicative gifts.”
27 Feb 17 Grand Celebration Concert, Athens Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
“Grand Celebration Marks Handing the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center to the State.
A large celebration, open to all, marked the completion of the delivery of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) to its permanent owner, the Greek State and, by extension, to the Greek society, the citizens and daily visitors of the SNFCC.
During this special moment in the project’s progress, thousands of people actively participated in the day’s events and happenings, confirming, through their presence, that the SNFCC belongs to all. The official delivery ceremony was attended by the country’s political and state leadership, foreign ambassadors, friends of the SNF, SNFCC Members and a large crowd of people, who arrived in order to be a part of this special day.
The event opened with the screening of a short video on the history of the SNFCC, and was followed by speeches by the President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr. Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Co-President and Director of the SNF, Mr. Andreas Dracopoulos and the Prime Minister, Mr. Alexis Tsipras. Following the speeches, the Minister of Finance, Mr. Euclid Tsakalotos, along with the SNF’s Chief Financial Officer, Mrs. Christina Lambropoulou, signed the agreement transferring SNFCC SA’s only share to the Greek State by means of a gift, on the stage of the packed Stavros Niarchos Hall.
The event was marked with the appearance of internationally renowned soprano Sumi Jo, who performed the famous aria Casta Diva from Bellini’s opera, Norma as well as onstage performances, video screenings, events in all corners of the SNFCC, smaller and larger artistic groups, all which composed a free festival — open to all.
The event also featured the Ballet, the Children’s Choir and the Adult Choir of the Greek National Opera, the ERT National Symphony Orchestra, Natassa Bofiliou, Alkinoos Ioannidis and the Baroque Ensemble, the Lyceum Club of Greek Women, George Kontrafouris on piano, street dancers, skaters and roller bladers, alongside video screenings of readings by famous actors, curated by the National Library of Greece. The artistic program was under the direction of Thomas Moschopoulos.
The evening was concluded with a unique party featuring fireworks, music and dancing, at the SNFCC’s Agora.”
31 Jan 17 New York Philharmonic's Chinese New Year Concert David Geffen Hall, New York
“The marquee star of the evening, Korean soprano Sumi Jo certainly supplied celebrity glamour, bringing her beaming, supple soprano to a range of showy repertoire. She gave a bravura performance of the dizzying variations on “Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman” from Adolphe Adam’s Le Toréador, cutting through the daunting runs with clear, firm coloratura, while principal flutist Robert Langevin matched her with a virtuoso turn of his own.”
“Jo’s most convincing work came in her trio of Chinese songs. The folk song “A little path” was earnestly realized, maintaining a simple, unassuming innocence even over an accompaniment that could have come from a Richard Rodgers love-song. Huang Zi’s “Three Rose Wishes,” meanwhile, proved strikingly Schumannesque, featuring a direct, pining, striving melody over cushioned strings. Li Qingzhu’s “I Live Beside the Yangtze River” offered vivid ripples from a harp, with delicate pulses in the orchestra. Jo handled all of these with sensitive artistry”
Eric C. Simpson, New York Classical Review, 1 February 2017
16 Jan 17 Charity Concert Meralco Theater Manila
“2016 is still Sumi Jo’s year with well-received concerts from Texas to Japan (the Seaside Jazz Festival), Paris and Italy (with Andrea Bocelli), at the Chatelet Theater in Paris where she got another standing ovation and on to Australia where the applause and rave reviews got louder and wilder.
She is a soloist of the New York Philharmonic on Jan. 31 after which she has a return engagement with the Hong Kong Philharmonic on Feb. 3, then she will be in Manila for the second time at the Meralco Theater on Feb. 7 with pianist Najib Ismail.
Of her latest engagements, the ecstatic audience adulations at Paris Chatelet Theater and Australia show her vocal artistic prowess has remained unblemished through the years.”
Pablo A. Tariman, Manila Standard, 16 January 2017
21 Nov 16 Maria Callas Tribute Recital City Recital Hall, Sydney
“An evening with Korean prima donna Sumi Jo is the whole package.
Not only do you get a swag of well-loved arias and the occasional show tune — with some Korean folk songs to season — but you also get four stunning dress changes and some engaging comic business to boot.”
“Predictably her handling of Bellini’s Casta diva from Norma, the aria most associated with Callas, was a standout. The control, clarity of line and warm tone were glorious.
Sumi Jo sings Ave Maria in a 2008 concert tribute to her father.
Similarly Schubert’s Ave Maria, which she sang so movingly in Paris just after she heard that her father had died, was beautifully delivered with Matthewman matching her phrasing with uncanny empathy.”
“Jo was generous with her encores — three in them to please all tastes, including a heart-melting performance of Un bel di vedremo from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.”
Steve Moffatt, Australian Daily Telegraph, 22 November 2016
24 Oct 15 Concerts with Hawaii Symphony Orchestra Neal Blaisdell Center, Honolulu
Korean soprano Sumi Jo wowed her audience at the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra concert on Saturday, transforming a quietly polite audience into an enthusiastic crowd of fans, their cries of “Brava!” and “Encore!” echoing through the hall in an extended standing ovation.
Sumi Jo is a memorable, flamboyant performer. Each of her four entries elicited gasps of appreciation for her glittering gowns, stunning confections of gold and silver, soft pastels, sparkling reds and white, accented with dramatic ribbons and sashes.
She began the evening quietly in manner, but by the end proved to be quite the entertainer – dancing with the conductor, acting out songs, arranging people on stage and inviting the audience to join in.
In a masterfully constructed program, Sumi Jo presented some of the greatest hits – and some of the most challenging arias – composed for her vocal type, a very light lyric coloratura. The arias chosen suited her voice perfectly, culminating in the show-stopping “Doll Song” from “Tales of Hoffmann.” It was pure joy to hear a beautifully trained voice deliver such difficult works with ease and grace.
Sumi Jo’s voice is clear, warm, and exceptionally flexible, leaping throughout her range, ornamenting notes with high trills and tight vibratos. For some climaxes, she sang higher, alternate notes in passages that are already stratospheric.
In the eternal trade-off between diction and clarity of tone, Sumi Jo leaned toward clarity of tone and was at her absolute best in passages of wordless vocalizing that gave her voice free rein to revel in pure sound.
Two selections were duets with mezzo-soprano Maya Hoover, of the music department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Both duets were lovely, and Delibes’ “Flower Duet” from “Lakmé” was one of the evening’s highlights.
Sumi Jo’s and Hoover’s voices matched perfectly, of similar weight and different but compatible timbres, one brighter, the other darker. Every note, every phrase were synchronized, and their voices allowed each line to remain distinct while melding into perfectly balanced harmony. Truly outstanding.
Under the direction of Mexican American conductor Jorge Mester, the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra sounded wonderful, attaining new peaks in quality. Thoughtfully shaped phrases reflected Mester’s lifetime experience with conducting and delivered a consistently transparent texture so that even inner lines remained clear.
Mester maintained an exceptionally well-balanced sound, not only in delicate passages and passionate climaxes, but also between orchestra and singer, ensuring Sumi Jo’s every note could be heard and offering support without ever obscuring.
Each of Mester’s interpretations was a treat: Tchaikovsky’s “Polonaise” felt like dancing, Saint-Saens’ “Bacchanale” was exuberant without becoming raucous, and Strauss’ waltzes sounded Viennese.
It was also a delight to hear the orchestra showcase its soloists: concertmaster Ignace Jang (violin), Scott Janusch and Ryan Klein (both oboe), Lindsay Edwards (English horn), James Moffitt (clarinet), Paul Barrett (bassoon), Mark Votapek (cello), and especially Susan McGinn (flute) in a lovely duet with Sumi Jo, a set of virtuosic variations on “Ah! Vous dirai-je Maman” (better known as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”).
Sumi Jo ended the evening with two encores, including one commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Korean War and hoping for reunification in the future.
If you have not yet heard Sumi Jo, don’t miss the opportunity – it’s a great concert.
22 Feb 14 Gala Concert with Singapore Symphony Orchestra Esplanade Concert Hall, Singapore
Gala: Sumi Jo just about sums it up. …
The audience ate it up and rewarded her with cheers and rounds of applause.
Her finest singing came in the first of her four encores, “O mio babbino caro” from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. Her career was built upon bel canto roles, but she sang this verismo aria with warmth and charm.
Sumi Jo the entertainer was front and center … Her props included a fan, a wineglass and of course her fabulous dresses. She even waltzed at one point … much to the delight of the audience.”
Rick Perdian, Seen and Heard International, 22 February 2014
01 Jul 13 Bellini Norma CD, DECCA
“[Jo] is probably the most convincing Adalgisa of my recent experience. The first recitative “Sgombra è la sacra selva” immediately establishes the character’s desperate confliction and fear and Jo’s sense of breathless dread takes the listener into her mental world. The following aria “Deh! Proteggimi, o Dio” is sung with gentle sweetness but doesn’t downplay the agony…Jo eloquently shows her character helpless to resist the charms of her seducer but remains racked with guilt…Jo’s blank horror on “Che ascolto!” is moving indeed”…Jo’s contrasting gentle response “Mira, o Norma” leads into the duet acknowledged as one of the pearls of bel canto and both artists are at their best here.”
Opera Brittania, 24 May 2013
“Cuts made early in the work’s performing history are opened up, and voice types approximating to those of the first cast are deployed. So Norma (Cecilia Bartoli) has a darker tone than Adalgisa (Sumi Jo), while a lyric, rather than a dramatic tenor – John Osborn – sings Pollione. Its principal revelations lie in the orchestral sound, stark and abrasive rather than comfortingly smooth, Giovanni Antonini’s urgent conducting, and, above all, in Jo’s immensely touching depiction of ruined innocence.”
The Guardian, Tim Ashley, 13 June 2013
01 May 12 Nixon in China (Madame Mao) Chatelet Theatre
“rigorously executed and superbly acted…Sumi Jo’s Madame Mao patrols her space and fires off the top notes.”
Financial Times, April 2012
01 Apr 11 Recital Roy Thompson Hall, USA
“an evening of high-flying pyrotechnic display, whether baroque or buffo. One showpiece followed another. And another.
A lesser singer would have bored us silly with all this brilliance and accuracy, but Jo is expert enough at shading notes and shaping phrases to keep the skeptical ear engaged. Charles Gounod’s Sérénade was particularly rich compendium of smartly rolled trills and lines given just the right (and natural) bend of vibrato.
She could sing with pathos, too, in O quante volte from Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi. Two Korean items brought out a dramatic heft not normally equated with coloraturas. The two final numbers, the Doll Song from The Tales of Hoffmann (Offenbach) and Sempre libera from La Traviata (Verdi), offered a striking illustration of Jo’s capacity to darken her voice on demand…”
Washington National Post, April 2011
CONCERT REPERTOIRE includes:
Song to the Moon
Concerto for Coloratura Soprano in F minor
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 4
Des Knaben Wunderhorn
Concert Arias, varia
Mass in C minor
Lieder der Frauen
Bachianas Brasileria No. 5
OPERATIC REPERTOIRE includes:
I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Giulietta)
I Puritani (Elvira)
La Sonnambula (Amina)
Don Pasquale (Norina)
Lucia di Lammermoor (Lucia)
Lucio Silla (Giunia)
Les Dialogues des Carmelites (Constance)
Le Coq d’Or (Shemakha)
Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Rosina)
Il Turco in Italia (Fiorilla)
Le Comte Ory (Adele)
Ariadne auf Naxos (Zerbinetta)
Der Rosenkavalier (Sophie)
Un ballo in maschera (Oscar)