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A coloratura soprano who in the late 1990s became one of the most noticed new names on the international operatic circuit, Sumi Jo was a discovery of the flamboyant German conductor Herbert von Karajan. A striking beauty, she owed her initial celebrity in part to video: the conductor arranged for her a prominent role in his "Karajan in Salzburg" video production.
Sumi Jo was born in Seoul, Korea, in 1962. After studying both voice and piano from a young age, she dropped out of Seoul National University in 1983 to travel to Italy for study at the Accademia di Santa Cecelia in Rome. Among her teachers were Carlo Bergonzi and Grannila Bonelli. She graduated in 1985, with a concentration in keyboard as well as voice, and over the next few years took top voice competition prizes in several countries, attracting the attention of Karajan. Her operatic debut came as Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto in 1986, and two years later she performed in Un Ballo in Maschera under Karajan's baton. In the 1990s she was ubiquitous, singing in major capitals on nearly every continent. She won a Grammy award in 1993, and among her many recordings, her several portrayals of Mozart's vocally treacherous Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte have been especially noteworthy. The 1999-2000 season has seen Sumi Jo embarking on a major tour of Australia and her native Far East, and she plans to return to New York to reprise her debut Rigoletto role.
1962 in Seoul, South Korea