MANILA, Philippines—Grammy-award winning Korean diva Sumi Jo has arrived for her Philippine debut, offering friendship and good tidings for victims and survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda.
Sumi Jo, a coloratura soprano, will perform in a recital with Filipino pianist Najib Ismail on Saturday at 8 p.m., at the Samsung Hall, SM Aura, Global City.
At a press briefing at the Cravings Restaurant in Shangri-La Mall in Mandaluyong City, the diva—described by the legendary Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan as a “voice from above”—said she was not in town as a diva but as an artist offering joy and compassion especially for the victims of Yolanda.
“I am mainly here as a representative of Unesco and I would like to bring positive vibes for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda,” Miss Sumi Jo said.
Asked if she still brought her washboard on her trips abroad, she said her hotel room looked like a mini-clothesline as she just washed clothes upon arrival in Manila.
“I like simple things like gardening, washing clothes, cooking. If I want to live all over again, I’d like to be an ordinary housewife for a change. Singing is all hard work and I’d like to have a break from all that if I am given a chance to live in a new lifetime,” she said.
The Korean diva is on an Asian tour and Manila is her first stopover.
Asked what she looked for in a pianist, she joked that it would be better if her Filipino pianist, Najib Ismail, left the room because she was going to give an honest reply. “I don’t want a typical piano accompanist,” she said. “I want a fellow human being with his own ideas and sensibility and who can feel the music with me and create something beautiful from the music score.”
Ismail, who has worked with Australian legendary diva Dame Joan Sutherland in a master class, said he was “very scared.”
The diva shared what she learned from opera icon Carlo Bergonzi with whom she also studied. “I started my vocal studies as a mezzo soprano but in Italy I discovered that I was able to perform high notes as well.”
Sumi also liked the child-like spirit of Von Karajan, who was supposed to conduct her at the 1989 Salzburg Festival. (The conductor, however, died during rehearsals.) “On top of that I also like his incredible charisma that extended over everyone he worked with. I was so happy to work with him. He and I were like a playful grandfather and granddaughter. Karajan told me that my music would not flourish if I’m constantly surrounded by people. He told me to spend time by and for myself.”