Hyeseoung Kwon spreads her wings as ‘Butterfly’

Hyeseoung Kwon as Fiordiligi. Image Jeff Busby


Terrific news from soprano Hyeseoung Kwon who has announced that she will be singing the role of Cio-Cio San in the Raymond Gubbay production of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly at the Royal Albert Hall in early 2015.

Hyeseoung Kwon covered the role for  Opera Australia in 2012 and she is understandably excited at the prospect of spreading her own wings to realise this role. Even though the event may seem distant, she has already started her learning for which she needs to learn the English libretto written by Amanda Holden.

Interestingly, Hyeseoung says ” Even though I know it in Italian, I will not be using that as the basis for learning the English libretto. I will learn the English libretto as if from the beginning. There will be no-surtitles so I will need to convey everything through the text. I am also really looking forward to the opportunity to singing in English.”

Cio-Cio San is one of the hardest characters to portray in opera. On one hand Cio-Cio San is like any dreamy young girl in her mid-teens. She has aspirations of love and of a better life. Yet, the role requires powerful singing and the ability to convey dramatic depth.. Yet, her youthful vulnerability has a destructive streak  channelled by unswerving loyalty and dogged determination.

“I want to act every single word and project every single word. I will ‘sing’ her as young as I can. My voice has a good foundation for this because I used to sing a lot of bel canto and Handel. But my voice is getting bigger and I can do more dramatic things with it.”

Hyeseoung Kwon as Leila. Image Jeff Busby.

Hyeseoung admits that Maria Callas’ Cio-Cio San is hard to surpass as her favourite version. Following close behind are Cheryl Barker and Patricia Racette who both recently sang the role in Sydney.

Hyeseoung studied voice at Seoul’s Han-Yang University before specialising in vocal and opera performance at the Conservatorium of Milan and the Vercelli Academy. She rose through the Young Artist Program for Opera Queensland and for Opera Australia. In 2002 she won the prestigious Australian Singing Competition’s Opera Award and was nominated for Helpmann & Greenroom Awards in 2008 & 2009.

Sydney audiences will remember her performances in 2012 as Pamina and as Liu for Opera Australia. Her  many previous roles include Leila, Giulietta, Fiordiligi and Nanetta.

Right now, Hyeseoung is preparing for her roles in Melbourne’s Ring cycle as Freja in Das Rheingold, and Helmwige in Die Walküre.

Raymond Gubbay’s  Madame Butterfly was first staged at the Royal Albert Hall in 1998. It has since been reprised several times. The 2015 production will be directed by David Freeman and conducted by Oliver Gooch who have both been with the production since its inception. Freeman’s direction has been described in The Guardian as ‘sure-footed’ and in The Telegraph as ‘solid…enhanced by the occasional flash of magic.’

A little bit of sleuthing revealed that tenor James Edwards will be singing the role of Pinkerton.

Madame Butterfly will be performed at the Royal Albert Hall London from Sunday, 1 February, 2015 to Saturday, 28 March, 2015

Hyeseoung Kwon spoke to Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©

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