Opera singer with “once-in-a-century” voice
Master conductor Herbert von Karajan said her voice was a “God-given voice”
Sumi Jo, the world-renowned lyric soprano, who is today getting superlative praises from world audiences and music critics, was born and partly educated in Korea.
After attending the Seoul National University College of Music, she went to Italy to study at the Academia di Santa Cecilia of Rome, which she finished in 1986. Subsequently, she won a prize at Italy's Alberto Capella International Musical Contest. She won this distinction in that highly competitive contest for her prominent talent and skill as a vocalist.
In 1987, a year after her graduation from the Academia di Santa Cecilia, Sumi Jo sang the role of Oscar in Un ballo in Maschera at the Salzburg Festival under the direction of Herbert von Karajan. The master conductor was impressed by her voice, for he remarked that hers was a God-given voice.
In 1988 she made her debut at the Scala Theatre in Milan in Jommelli's opera Fetonte. Phillips produced a disc of Rossini's Le Comte Ory, which immediately became a best-seller. She thus attained uncommon fame in her 20s. The renowned music critic Christopher Lawrence observed that Jo was endowed with a golden voice.
She has performed in more than 30 opera houses around the globe including Covent Garden, the Vienna State Opera, La Scala, and the Metropolitan. Thus far Jo has showed a rich variety of styles, running the gamut of vocal technique and virtuosity. In Spain she performed in Il Turco in Italia, and played the role of Adelle in Le Comte Ory at the Opera of Rome and at the Aix en Provence Festival. She interpreted the part of Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos in Buenos Aires. She has worked with maestros such as Sir Georg Solti, Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, Yehudi Menuhin and Seiji Ozawa among others.
As demonstrated by her bel canto albums produced in 1997 by Erato, the bel canto singing style suits her best. Jo once confessed that while believing "destiny is what you make," she has tried very hard to build her self-confidence. Jo continued to hone her God-given voice with ascetic self-discipline. Her bel canto style acquired in Italy goes exceedingly well with her coloratura technique.