Friday, 14 May 2010

SSO Concert: SUMI JO Gala Concert / Review

SUMI JO Gala Concert
Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Lim Yau, Conductor
Esplanade Concert Hall
Wednesday (12 May 2010)


This review was published in The Straits Times on 14 May 2010.

The final concert of the SSO’s 2009-10 season was the first gala of the working year that did not disappoint. Unlike the incompetent Li Yundi and bored Sarah Chang, Korean soprano Sumi Jo totally lived up to her top billing. Witnessing an artist at the height of her powers was something special to behold.

Jo had consistently delivered in three previous concerts in Singapore, and this, her fourth was the best of the lot. Her six well-contrasted operatic arias, divided into four small groups, allowed for three changes of glittering gowns. It was her voice and sheer communicative power that sold her as the complete package.

Coloratura was a specialty, and with O luce di quest’anima (O Light Of My Soul) from Donizetti’s Linda di Chamonix, an awesome show of vocal acrobatics with perfect diction and fine articulation was underway. One marveled at the ease in which she shaped the most difficult passages, colouring each song with shades of a rainbow.

In Olympia’s Aria (or the Doll’s Song) from Offenbach’s Tales Of Hoffmann, Jo’s automaton portrayal with jerky movements and Parkinsonian stare was pure comedy. Egged on by conductor Lim Yau’s “winding up” of her mechanism, the audience was in stitches. Her charisma alone ensured there were cheers even before a note was sung.

Displaying depth beyond mere showpieces, Amour, ranime mon courage (Love, Give Me Courage) from Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette saw her living out the part, fraught with anguished facial expressions. This was the moment of rarefied beauty before her lethal dose of poison. Dying divas with music to die for also distinguished Ophelia’s final Mad Scene from Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet, where Jo was no less gripping.

Opening each half and in between aria groups, the orchestra performed overtures by Donizetti, Verdi and Offenbach, and the rarely-heard ballet music from Verdi’s Macbeth. These served as pleasant breathers, especially when played as well as this.

Jo’s generously served three encores, with an admission of unusual candour that she had under-performed one of her earlier songs. She also stopped the orchestra as it began Puccini’s O mio babbino caro (Gianni Schicchi), having missed the cue. Never mind, the audience was already lapping from her fingers. On this evening, the singer hailed as “the voice from above” would have been forgiven for anything and everything.

1 comment:

JL said...

Totally agree with your commentary, Dr. Chang. I was so reluctant to leave after the concert ended. It was such a fantastic experience.