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Su Mi-jo: The Journey of a World-Renowned Soprano

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Su Mi-jo, also known as Soo Kyong Jo, is a South Korean soprano who has captivated audiences worldwide with her expressive voice and virtuosic performances. Born on November 22, 1962, in Seoul, South Korea, she is renowned for her ability to portray major coloratura roles in the operatic repertoire. Throughout her illustrious career, Su Mi-jo has received numerous accolades and has become one of the most beloved sopranos of her generation. In this article, we will explore Su Mi-jo’s remarkable journey, from her early musical education to her international success, and the sacrifices she made along the way.

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Sumi Jo – Franz Schubert – Ave Maria – Paris, 2006

Early Musical Education

Su Mi-jo’s passion for music was evident from an early age. She began her musical studies at a young age and enrolled in the music school of Seoul National University. However, she decided to leave after her second year to pursue her dreams at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome. It was during her time in Rome, starting in 1983, that she focused on studying keyboard and vocal music. Su Mi-jo’s talent and dedication caught the attention of renowned Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan, who praised the beauty of her voice.

Rise to International Stardom

With Herbert von Karajan’s recommendation, Su Mi-jo made her debut at the prestigious Salzburg Festival in 1986. The same year, she performed as Gilda in Giuseppe Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” marking her operatic debut. In 1988, she impressed audiences once again with her portrayal of Oscar in Verdi’s “Un ballo in maschera,” with Karajan conducting. Her performance was so remarkable that she considered Oscar as one of her favorite roles. Throughout the late 1980s, Su Mi-jo achieved significant success by winning several international competitions, solidifying her career as an international star.

Notable Roles and Recordings

Su Mi-jo’s talent and versatility allowed her to excel in a wide range of roles. She gained particular acclaim for her portrayal of the Queen of the Night in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Die Zauberflote” and the title role in Gaetano Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.” She also showcased her talent in Richard Strauss’s operas, performing as Sophia in “Der Rosenkavalier” and Zerbinetta in “Ariadne auf Naxos.” In the Vienna Philharmonic’s Grammy Award-winning recording of Strauss’s “Die Frau ohne Schatten,” conducted by Sir Georg Solti, Su Mi-jo lent her voice to the character of the Voice of the Falcon.

In addition to her operatic performances, Su Mi-jo has recorded numerous albums that have resonated with both classical and popular music audiences. She has released collections of arias as well as albums with crossover appeal, showcasing her versatility and broad musical range. One of her critically acclaimed albums, “Prayers” (2001), featured her renditions of religious songs, including Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria” and the hymn “Amazing Grace.” Another notable album, “Only Love” (2000), showcased songs from Broadway musicals.

International Recognition and Performances

Su Mi-jo’s exceptional talent and captivating performances earned her recognition and invitations from renowned opera houses and festivals around the world. In 1993, she was named the best soprano of the year at the sixth La Siola d’Oro in Forli, Italy. European houses such as La Scala in Milan, Covent Garden in London, and the Vienna State Opera in Austria welcomed her performances. In the United States, she graced the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Her international engagements extended to South America, Australia, and Asia, further solidifying her reputation as a global opera star.

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Performances at Major Events

Su Mi-jo’s talent and popularity led to invitations to perform at major global events. She had the honor of performing at the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, showcasing her remarkable vocal abilities to a worldwide audience. Additionally, she lent her voice to the 2002 Football World Cup in her home country of South Korea, captivating sports fans with her powerful performances. Su Mi-jo’s ability to connect with audiences on such grand stages demonstrates her command of the opera world and her ability to captivate diverse audiences.

Personal Struggles and Sacrifices

Behind Su Mi-jo’s incredible success lies a tale of personal struggles and sacrifices. At the age of 19, she embarked on a journey from South Korea to Italy to pursue her dreams of becoming an opera singer. This move meant leaving behind her friends and family, finding herself as one of the few Asians in Italy at the time. The initial period was challenging, as she had to navigate unfamiliar territory without knowing how to cook or speak Italian. Su Mi-jo’s loneliness was alleviated by a puppy she found on the streets, who became her only companion during those difficult times.

Despite the challenges, Su Mi-jo persevered and achieved remarkable success. She recorded over 50 albums, including 10 solo albums, and received a Grammy award in 1993 for her outstanding contributions to the music industry. Her talent and dedication led to performances at renowned opera houses and major international events. However, the pursuit of her career often meant sacrificing personal milestones. In 2006, Su Mi-jo had to miss her father’s funeral as she was performing in Paris.

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