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[Herald Interview] Baritone comes full circle in ‘Barber of Seville’

Baritone Kim Ju-taek, also known as Julian Kim, is a singer recognized beyond the Italian opera scene, even by non-classical music audiences in Korea.

Kim is to perform in opera concert “Barber of Seville” in March, as part of art management agency Arts&Artists’ opera concert series.

He is exceptionally attached to the opera piece as he made his official debut as Figaro in “Barber of Seville” at Teatro G.B. Pergolesi in Jesi, Italy in 2009, Kim, 33, said.

Baritone Kim Ju-taek (Arts&Artists)
Baritone Kim Ju-taek (Arts&Artists)

“‘The Barber of Seville’ is special to me as it is my debut work and one of few operas that feature a baritone as the main singer,” Kim said in a recent email interview with The Korea Herald.

“Also, theatric conversations take up a large part of the opera, making it hard for even Italians to pull off. As there are a lot of recitatives (sung with the rhythm of normal speech), the story flows better with high dramatic effects,” he added. “Plus, Rossini’s melodies are cheerful.”

Kim, a Korean national, is an established opera singer in Italy. Having graduated at the top of his class at the Conservatorio di Musica Giuseppe Verdi in Turin, he has starred in major opera productions across Italy.

In the 2015-16 season, Kim became the first Korean to take the role of Figaro in “Barber of Seville” at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. In the following season, he also performed in “La Boheme,” “The Marriage of Figaro” and “La Traviata” at the iconic Teatro La Fenice in Venice.

This winter, Kim had his dream come true, as he graced the stage as Rodrigo of “Don Carlo” under the baton of maestro Chung Myun-whun in November and December at Teatro La Fenice.

“Ten years ago, I met maestro Chung and sung an aria by Rodrigo. Since then, I had dreamed of doing an entire opera piece with Chung. This winter at Teatro La Fenice the dream finally came true,” he said.

Though successfully established as an opera singer, Kim’s singing career is not limited to Italian opera houses. Having starred in JTBC’s crossover vocal audition show “Phantom Singer” in 2017, he is recognized by the wider public in Korea, too.

Through the TV show, Kim became a member of four-person “popera” group Miraculous.

“Music of any genre will have no life if no one listens to it. The audience is very important. I am only trying to introduce classical music to people who are unfamiliar with the music form,” Kim said.

“In the end, I wanted to share the fun and diverse information regarding classical music which I have learned over the years, so that classical music can establish its place as a genre that appeals to the public,” he said.

The opera concert “Barber of Seville” will be presented at the Lotte Concert Hall on March 8. Tickets range from 55,000 won to 121,000 won.

By Im Eun-byel (