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'The Best Sopranos' concert highlights Maria Callas' life through familiar tunes

By Park Ga-young

Published : March 12, 2024 - 19:59

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The performers and creative team of The performers and creative team of "The Best Sopranos" concert greet the audience after their performance at Lotte Concert Hall in eastern Seoul on Monday. (Korea ARTS Group)

A tribute to American and Greek soprano Maria Callas took place Monday at Lotte Concert Hall.

The concert, titled “The Best Sopranos” brought together five sopranos, whom the artistic director Ha Man-taek of the concert and CEO of Korea ARTS Group, said “are the best sopranos to me, even though they are so far less-well known to the world.”

The sopranos -- Park Mi-ja, Kim Ra-hee, Shin Eun-hye, Lee Yun-jeong and Veronica Yoo -- were joined by two tenors Ha and Son Ji-hoon and two baritones Jea Sang-chul and Park Joung-min. The program for the first half of the concert included arias such as Rossini’s “Dunque io son,” Verdi’s “Udiste? ... Mira di acerbe lagrime” and “O soave fanciulla” by Puccini.

The second half followed the life of Callas with familiar tunes from “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to depict the beginning of the singer's musical journey as she prepared for admission to the Athens Conservatoire.

The concert then explored her dramatic and tragic life through “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Vien Diletto,” “Tonight,” “Libertango,” “Por una Cabeza,” “Cinema Paradiso,” “What Though Life Conspire to Cheat You,” “The Prayer,” “Memory” and “Casta Diva.”

Guitarist Jang Ha-eun joined the Millennium Symphony Orchestra led by conductor Choi Young-sun.

Born in New York City in 1923 to Greek immigrant parents, Callas quickly gained attention for her extraordinary vocal range, versatility and emotional intensity making her debut in 1941. Despite her professional success, Callas' personal life was marked by tumultuous relationships, including her highly publicized affair with Aristotle Onassis. She also faced criticism for her weight fluctuations and vocal decline in later years. She died in 1977 at the age of 53.

The concert, the first in Korea ARTS Group’s classical singers' series, was co-organized by The Korea Herald.

Officials from the embassies of Bangladesh, Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, the European Union, Greece, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Bangladesh attended the event.