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Soprano Im Sun-hae releases surprising, yet not-so-surprising musical album

Soprano Im Sun-hae poses for a photo during a press conference on Wednesday. (Universal Music Korea)
Soprano Im Sun-hae poses for a photo during a press conference on Wednesday. (Universal Music Korea)

The latest album by South Korean soprano Im Sun-hae is unlike most of her previous releases. Betraying her love for musicals, “The Man I Love” is a pleasant picnic away from her career as a soprano, according to the performer.

“I‘ve always loved all genres of musical performance. I will always be a classical singer at heart because once you fall in love with classical music, you never give it up completely. But I often felt a need to explore different genres and diversify,” Im said during a press conference in Seoul last Wednesday, marking the album’s release. “This album adds new flavors to my career and has reminded me why I love music.”

“The Man I Love,” named after a George and Ira Gershwin song of the same name, was released on Universal Music Korea and EMK Entertainment. The album contains nine songs, each with a special place in the soprano‘s heart.

Im has always been fascinated by the music of Leonard Bernstein ever since she saw her first musical -- “Wonder Town” in New York. “Dream With Me” from Bernstein’s “Peter Pan” and “Tonight” from Bernstein‘s “West Side Story” have both been included on the album, as well as “Summertime” from Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess.” Im believes that the music of Bernstein and Gershwin acts as a link between the worlds of classical music and stage musicals.

No novice to the musical stage, Im made her musical debut in “Phantom” as Christine Daaé in Seoul in 2015. She also appeared in the show‘s third revival as a special guest. Even last year, during COVID-19 pandemic-related travel restrictions, Im appeared in the show 34 times for its fourth revival.

It is rare for a soprano trained in classical music to perform in a stage musical due to the different vocal techniques. However, the role she was offered was perfect for an opera singer, and she did not have to lose her identity as a soprano. “When I was invited to perform in ’Phantom,‘ I was reluctant to accept. After a two-hour conversation with the American producer, I was convinced.”

“Think of Me” from “Phantom of the Opera” and “Home” from “Phantom” have been included on the album to let the listeners know that there are two different musicals based on the original Gaston Leroux novel and how different they are. 

Soprano Im Sun-hae sings during a press conference on Wednesday. (Universal Music Korea)
Soprano Im Sun-hae sings during a press conference on Wednesday. (Universal Music Korea)

As musical enthusiasts will know, these separate adaptations were being prepared simultaneously during the 1980s. When “The Phantom of the Opera” became a success on the West End, it effectively halted Broadway’s plans to release“Phantom,” which was instead made into a TV miniseries in 1990.

Some of South Korea‘s up-and-coming musicians, including cellist Mun Tae-guk, clarinetist Kim Han, flutist Cho Sung-hyun, baritone Kim Gi-hoon and pianist Moon Jae-won and German pianist Sebastian Wienand also took part in the album.

Discussing her plans to continue performing on stage, Im stated, “I’d love to participate in a musical that has great music and rhythm like ”Wonderful Town.“ It has the perfect role for a soprano.”

Born in 1976 and now based in Berlin, Germany, the soprano has shown a wide-ranging repertoire since her concert debut with Philippe Herreweghe in 1999 and her debut at the Frankfurt Opera in 2000.

She studied with Lokyung Pak at Seoul National University and with Roland Hermann at Hochschule für Musik Karlsruhe.

The musical album “The Man I Love” marks her first recording in South Korea. Her previous Korean release in 2018 was a compilation of music from albums released in Europe.

“The Man I Love” is available at stores around Korea and can be streamed on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Youtube, and many other platforms.

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Korea Herald daum