Korean Woman Conductor Conquers Europe

      June 05, 2015 08:23

      Kim Eun-sun will make her debut with the Berlin State Opera with "Un ballo in maschera (A Masked Ballroom Dance)" in October and at the Semperoper Dresden with "La Bohème" in September.

      In a unique feat for a Korean woman conductor in her 30s, she is also scheduled to conduct "Madame Butterfly" at the Royal Opera Stockholm from early September.

      "I'll be very busy in October, moving around Berlin, Dresden, and Stockholm," Kim said.

      Kim majored in composition at Yonsei University in Seoul and began her career as a conductor in 2008, when she won first prize at the International Jesús López Cobos Opera Conducting Competition.

      The award gave her a chance to work as assistant conductor at the Teatro Real in Madrid under Cobos for two years. But after that, she had to start from scratch and build her career.

      This proved especially tough for a woman from Asia who just turned 30.

      Frankfurt Opera gave her a chance when they were looking for a last-minute replacement. Kim made a successful debut in the autumn of 2012 with "La Bohème," and that led to other appearances in Frankfurt in the 2014-2015 season with "La Traviata" and "La Sonnambula." 

      "Because I'm still young and a woman, some older members of the orchestra often challenge me and refuse to accept what I say, while others watch how this young woman will handle that kind of situation," she says. "I didn't know what to do in the beginning, but I think I'm getting the hang of it little by little. Now I have little trouble working with them in harmony."

      Kim is married to Michael Lewin, who runs a well-known international artists' management agency in Europe. There have been allegations of nepotism. "It's true that he helped in the early stage, but now it's an obstacle because I need to fight against that prejudice and prove that I was able to come this far on my own merit," Kim says.

      "It may work once or twice, but it's impossible to survive in leading European opera houses without solid ability as a conductor."

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