The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] As pianist and now actor, Yoo Sun Hee bridges cultures

By Park Ga-young

Published : July 3, 2024 - 17:42

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Pianist and actor Yoo Sun Hee (Yoo Sun Hee) Pianist and actor Yoo Sun Hee (Yoo Sun Hee)

Acclaimed Italian director Nanni Moretti’s latest film, “A Brighter Tomorrow,” which competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, features a Korean-Italian interpreter. The character is not just an interpreter of languages, but also a link across cultures, introducing for instance how to drink soju.

Though it’s a small role, for pianist Yoo Sun Hee, who is expanding her artistic horizons by venturing into acting with this role, it signifies what she aims to bring to the world as a musician and actor, as someone who is deeply familiar with two different cultures.

“Just like the interpreter in the film, I find a sense of accomplishment in connecting the languages, cultures, music and films of Italy and Korea. Having lived in Italy from a young age, I feel both like a Korean and an Italian. Finding my identity has been a challenge, and I carry a mission to balance living in two worlds,” Yoo told The Korea Herald in a recent interview.

"A Brighter Tomorrow" (Emu Films)

Learning to act has enhanced her piano performance and vice versa, as both are forms of artistic expression.

“It has been immensely helpful for me in this aspect. For example, when playing music, we use phrasing. Music flows and has psychological elements. When phrasing, a climax requires you to build tension until you reach that climax, and once you reach it, you have to maintain that feeling. This is similar to working with a script or during a shoot,” Yoo explained.

“Compared to performing, especially playing the piano, acting involves direct use of words, expressions and the body, so it’s very physically involved. As a result, preparing for and performing on stage now, I am more liberated from my body, more daring in my expressions and it has made me feel more courageous,” she said.

As she expands her horizons, she’s also finding the right balance of the different activities. Last year, she participated in the drama series “The Decameron,” which is to release on July 25 on Netflix.

“My role in the upcoming drama series is not big but, for me, everything is new and challenging and I really enjoyed it,” Yoo said.

She loves both her careers as a pianist and as an actor, and strives to find the right balance between the two. In the first five months of the year, she concentrated on promoting the film and shooting a drama series. From June, she is dedicating her time to preparing for concerts and a new piano album — her first solo album in eight years — that is set for release in September.

Yoo started playing the piano at the age of 3 and began winning various piano competitions at the age of 6. Invited by the Italian pianist Valfrido Ferrari, she attended a master class in Bari, Italy, and then, at just 14 years old, went to study at the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Italy. This marked the beginning of her career there, where she continues to work, greatly influenced by her encounter with the world-famous pianist Lazar Berman.

"As a performer, what I desire is to be completely free on stage. I want to express what I truly want to express without being constrained by technique or anything else. Reaching such a level feels like attaining a higher state of being. It's incredibly challenging, requires a long time and significant experience,” she said. “Acting is similar. When I act, I aim to be entirely free from everything and become one with the character. Achieving that kind of freedom and reaching that level is my dream."

Pianist and actor Yoo Sun Hee (Yoo Sun Hee) Pianist and actor Yoo Sun Hee (Yoo Sun Hee)