|Lise Lindstrom, third from left, waves to cameras during the press conference held Monday at Seoul Arts Center. From left are soprano Seo Sun-young, tenor Park Sung-kyu, Lindstrom and conductor Julian Kovatchev. / Courtesy of Seoul Arts Center|
By Yun Suh-young
American prima donna Lise Lindstrom will perform in Seoul for the first time this Saturday in the concert version of the opera "Turandot" at Seoul Arts Center.
The "concert opera" will be a recital of repertoires from the popular opera without the usual stage setting, costumes or acting.
Many fans in Korea have been excited about Lindstrom's performance in Seoul, as she is best known for her established performances as Turandot. Lindstrom has also made appearances in operas by only Puccini, R. Strauss and Wagner.
Lindstrom has a distinct style of clear pronunciation and sharp sound which is maximized in strong operas. Her feminine appearance which contrasts with her dramatic voice adds to her popularity with productions and fans.
In the Dec. 9 performance, Julian Kovatchev will conduct the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. Stephen Carr will direct.
Kovatchev who has been to Korea many times, his first time being 20 years ago, said, "Opera Turandot is extremely difficult to make, especially on a stage like this. The music is very difficult but I'm happy to have a wonderful orchestra," during a press conference in Seoul, Monday.
Carr said "Turandot" was his first exposure to opera.
"There's something magic about this music. There's a reason why I think this (opera) is so beloved. In one week we can get to the heart of this piece because it's a masterpiece," he said.
Lindstrom who is visiting Seoul for the first time, but has performed as Turandot over 150 times, said Puccini's "Turandot" was the composer's last opera and he put all his heart, soul and capacity into it.
"The tragedy is that he died before it was completed. It was a culmination of all his life's work. He wasn't able to finish it in the way he desired. It's about love and passion and conflict and death. As a human journey, it embodies everything we struggle with. It has a human quality to it," she said, explaining the production.
"I have sung this role over 150 times, in about 46 different productions all over the world. What I find fascinating about this woman is that she remains a mystery and yet she's extraordinarily human. The challenge for me is to bring the heart and the soul, the love, the true passion of a real woman to something that is often only portrayed as cold, one-dimensional, fearful and aggressive. This is a challenge I never get tired of because of the way it is written. There are so few and important opportunities in a piece to show how human and afraid she really is."
Tenor Park Sung-kyu, who plays Calaf who falls in love with Turandot, said the most difficult part about performing in a concert-style opera is delivering the lyrics.
"In Italy, for instance, audiences are more familiar with the plot than the singers are so lyrics aren't so important. But in Korea, delivering the lyrics without acting, and inspiring the audience with just the orchestra in the background, requires a lot of focus. Yet it's a great honor to be collaborating with the best orchestra in the country," he said.
Being a concert opera, "it forces you to focus on what's important" according to Carr.
"With art, if you put limitations on it, it forces you to be more creative. We're trying to use space as creatively as possible with lighting and projection_ really just trying to create spatial relationships between people and trusting the music to tell the story. In a way, it's distilling the process down to the most fundamental and important aspects," he said.
Lindstrom added, "In an opera production, there's a set, other actors, costumes, lights, it's a multidimensional environment. Your mind goes to the stage and gets consumed by it which is a beautiful experience. In a concert performance, the experience is much more immediate, because a lot of the extra accessories and ornaments are not there. We as singers are much more human than we would be in an opera performance."
Despite having acted in "Turandot" for over 150 times, Lindstrom always finds herself new in her character.
"We can never stop growing. There's so much possibility to continue to find our depth of emotion and connection to each other. I can never do the same thing twice because it affects me differently every single time," she said.
Regarding her slim physique in contrast to her strong voice, she said "the size of the voice and the size of the body have nothing to do with each other."
"This is a myth. Our voices are truly a gift that we're born with. Our job is to somehow take care of that instrument as well as we possibly can. Our body size doesn't have too much to do with it. I was lucky to end up this way but otherwise I would still be lucky to have this voice," she said.
The "2017 Special Stage Concert Opera Turandot" will be held at the Seoul Arts Center on Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. Ticket prices are from 30,000 won to 120,000 won. For more information, visit sac.or.kr or call 02) 580-1300.