Qing and I have just attended Sumi Jo Sempra Libera concert at the Esplanade two nights ago (17 October). She gave a terrific performance as we expected, and even sang the Blue Danube Waltz as her last encore piece. It was a superb ending piece, even though all the pieces she sang were extremely good.

Sumi Jo is an opera singer, a lyric coloratura soprano to be exact. Some people get turned off when they hear the word opera. It is true that it is quite a challenge to sit through a 1 to 2-hour opera and many people will get bored quickly. However, there are a lot of very good arias from operas that most music lovers would enjoy even though they may not know that they would, for lack of exposure (try Nessun dorma for example).

Concerts, like what Sumi Jo sings in, are the kind that should not be missed, as you get to hear the great arias without having to sit through a full opera. Of course, there are very nice pieces as well like Blue Danube Waltz that is so familiar to many and doesn’t necessary need to be an aria to be good.

Qing and I have been enjoying various kinds of music together for many years now although we are not musically trained. I took a liking to classical music back in 1982 after listening to the album “Hooked on Classics“. This wasn’t the usual heavy classical album type. It was more like a pop album with a disco-like beat and each track was made up of an excellent medley of many short extracts of very likeable classical pieces. Till today, I believe this is the perfect album to start in to appreciate classical music. I also believe that everybody should like classical music if they like music. The difficulty with classical music is that most of the time, you need to ‘learn’ the piece before you can get to really like it. By ‘learning’, I mean to get familiar with it by listening to it many times. Unlike a pop song where you can catch its tune really fast, classical music pieces usually take many repeated listening before one can follow their tune. However, once you are familiar with a piece, you can really hear the true beauty of music. There are classical pieces that one will love on the first hearing too, so I am not saying that all of them are always ‘lousy’ on the first hearing. But I guess you need to be more ‘experienced’ in classical music in the first place, in order to have more of such encounters.

I first heard of Sumi Jo when she had a concert here at the Esplanade in year 2004. Qing regrettably, had to miss that concert as she was away in Seoul on a business trip. In that concert with Singapore Symphony Orchestra, I was bowled over by her when she sang the Doll Song (Les oiseaux dans la charmille aria from Tales of Hoffmann opera)

This was the first time I heard the Doll Song, and she really demonstrated her superb talent in the song. I think most people should be very impressed with her rendition of this aria. Of course, after that, I heard many of her superb rendition of other songs in her CDs and DVDs. The other aria that I think she is the best in this world is Queen of the Night (Der Holle Rache) aria from The Magic Flute opera.

You can actually catch a lot of Sumi Jo’s repertoire in

Good as she is, unfortunately Sumi Jo is not my favourite classical singer. That honour goes to Hayley Westenra who sings lighter classical songs like Ave Maria for example. I have yet to hear her singing live, so it would be a real treat if she ever hold a concert in Singapore or somewhere near this region. I will certainly buy the best tickets available.

Check this out. Hayley Westernra singing May It Be from The Lord of the Rings movie.


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