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[Herald Interview] Journey to find her voice has brought Vittoria Yeo to peak performanceBy Park Ga-young
Published : Oct. 31, 2023 - 18:25
When Ji-won Yeo took to the stage in the title role for Bellini's opera "Norma" on Oct. 26, she might have been nervous. After all, despite performing just about every major role possible overseas, it was the 43-year-old's first lead role in her motherland.
But the South Korean soprano, better known overseas as Vittoria Yeo, proved why she has been only taking main roles since her debut despite some doubts earlier in her career.
When she decided to go study abroad in 2005, it wasn't for the usual reasons.
Her peers and even teachers questioned her: “You? Why?"
Most singers who venture overseas have already established themselves in Korea, and head out to seek new opportunities elsewhere. But all Yeo wanted to do was find her voice.
“I would sing loudly with all my might but it didn't sound like my voice. It felt like I was trapped somewhere. All I wanted to do was to discover my true voice. If I quit without understanding my voice, I knew I would regret it,” she said.
Yeo said performing a strong character like Norma gives her a sense of catharsis. Contrary to her charismatic appearance, she describes herself as an introvert who sees better things in other people than herself and these aspects of her personality can make her timid.
At the Istituto Musicale Pareggiato “Vecchi-Tonelli” in Modena, she met her teacher, Raina Kabaivanskam, who saw something special in this timid Korean girl and reminded her student to have confidence.
“Because I wasn’t that great, even small progress seemed visible to me and that made me excited and kept going,” she said.
While enjoying her journey to discover her true voice, she has sung numerous roles multiple times, Lady Macbeth in "Macbeth," Cio cio-San in "Madama Butterfly," Giovanna in "Giovanna d’Arco," Odabella, Mimi in "La Boheme," Lida in "La Battaglia di Legnano." Norma was her second following her Norma debut in 2019 at the Ravenna Festival, a summer festival of opera and classical music held in the city of Ravenna, Italy.
Among the many roles and performances she is set to take on in the coming months is that of Desdemona in Verdi's "Otello" at Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, a role she got in June after saving a show. Yeo was asked to step in as Cio cio-San in "Madama Butterfly" in June at the theater less than five hours before the performance was supposed to begin. She was practicing at Teatro Petruzzelli in the southern Italian city of Bari, which is about 4 hours and 45 minutes away from the theater in Rome. Yeo took on the challenge and saved the show -- marking yet another instance of her believing in herself in a situation that many would deem impossible.
“I believe I’m still progressing. Meeting new people and learning to act with fresh feelings are really fun,” she said.
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