The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Young opera soprano returns home to star as Juliet prior to Met Opera debut

Hyesang Park to star in opera rendition of Shakespeare’s beloved ‘Romeo and Juliet’

By Korea Herald

Published : Dec. 4, 2016 - 17:08

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From Violetta in Verdi’s “La Traviata” to Fiorilla in Rossini’s “Il Turco in Italia,” up-and-coming opera star Hyesang Park is gearing up to tackle one of the theater world’s most iconic leading ladies -- Shakespeare’s Juliet.

Marking her first return to the local stage since performing alongside the legendary Placido Domingo in his final concert in Korea in October, the 28-year-old Korean soprano is back home to star in the Korea National Opera’s upcoming staging of Charles Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet” from Thursday to Sunday.

Already making waves in the international opera realm, winning numerous competition titles and even having been praised by the New York Times for her “bright, clear voice and impressive coloratura technique,” the young soprano is eager to embody the female lead of perhaps literature’s most beloved tale of star-crossed lovers.

“Taking on the role of Shakespeare’s Juliet, one of the things that I really focused my concentration on is studying the works of Shakespeare. Of course everyone already knows the tale of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ but I really wanted to delve deeper into the play, not just focusing on the music,” Park explained, during an interview with The Korea Herald at the Seoul Arts Center on Thursday.

Opera soprano Hyesang Park (Grant Communications) Opera soprano Hyesang Park (Grant Communications)

“I read the play in both English and Korean, but reading just wasn’t enough, so I decided to memorize the lines from the story’s key scenes,” the soprano added, showing off her opera score book with her writing in the margins of her sheet music. “Adding in these side notes allows me to better reference and understand Shakespeare’s original script and adapt those emotions into my singing.”

Not only her first time tackling the iconic role Juliet, the upcoming opera also marks the singer’s first time singing in French. However, Park did not merely settle for learning the lyrics to her arias; the singer instead took a three-month intensive French language course in order to develop a better understanding of the nuance of the language.

“I decided to learn French because I wanted to learn the grammar and have that basic foundation that will allow me to better pronounce and understand how to properly accent certain words while I am singing. My goal for every performance is to be as authentic and accurate as possible, so I am always studying,” she says, noting that when it comes to “Romeo and Juliet,” all one’s emphasis has to be placed on ensuring her vocals and fully conveying the profound emotions of the tragic love story.

More so than watching the original staged play version of “Romeo and Juliet,” Park is confident that watching the operatic version of the classic tale will allow audience members to experience the turmoil and affection of the young lovers on a deeper, more emotional level. 

A scene from the Korea National Opera‘s 2014 performance of “Romeo and Juliet” (Korea National Opera) A scene from the Korea National Opera‘s 2014 performance of “Romeo and Juliet” (Korea National Opera)

“Saying ‘I love you,’ is one thing, but to be able to sing ‘I love you’ with the most subtle, yet intense vocal pitch, allows you to really be able to feel the words,” says Park.

Following her local performance, the opera singer is slated to return to New York, where she will immediately begin preparing for her next monumental role and make her Metropolitan Opera debut as the First Wood Nymph in Dvorak’s “Rusalka” with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in February and March next year.

For her upcoming role in the operatic rendition of the Shakespeare classic, the soprano will be starring alongside French soprano Nathalie Manfrino and American tenor Stephen Costello.

Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet” will be staged at the Seoul Arts Center’s Opera Theater with ticket prices ranging from 10,000 won to 150,000 won.

By Julie Jackson (