Seonkyong (Eva) Jeong: Thank you, maestra Kabaivanska!

This incredible woman saw my potential and taught me everything

I want people to be happy, and I try to make them feel that way with my voice. Carry this happiness with you, opera singer Seonkyong (Eva) Jeong says in an interview to BTA.

Ms Jeong tell us a little bit about yourself, your family and childhood, your life in Korea?

I am 31 years old, from Korea. In 2014 I went to study in Germany, where I earned my master's degree. I have been on many stages in Germany but in 2017 I left for Milan to learn more about specific vocalisation techniques and that same year fate took me to Raina Kabaivanska.

I am the only member of my family to have studied music. I was probably influenced by a long period of listening to church music in my childhood. My parents have no interest in singing, so I cannot say that they have passed on some music gene to me. I simply love lyrical music, the ease with which it is performed and the beauty and exquisiteness that can be found in a music piece.

How was your work on the stage of the Sofia Opera and Ballet?

I was so happy to make my debut in such a major opera theatre. The team was politely explaining everything to me in English, so we had absolutely no problem communicating. I am really impressed by the entire crew: conductor Zhorzh Dimitrov, director Svetozar Donev, creative director Nela Stoyanova, and all the others. I am so happy that I got the chance to collaborate with director Svetozar Donev and conductor Zhorzh Dimitrov. It was also great working with the rest of the cast: Nikolay Petrov (as Don Pasquale), Hrisimir Damyanov (as Ernesto) and Alexander Georgiev (as Carlino). Sharing one stage with the magnificent choir of the Sofia Opera and Ballet is a true pleasure too. And the orchestra is simply amazing!

You have taken part in masterclasses given by Raina Kabaivanska. What are your impressions of her? What do you remember most about the advices she gave you?

The very first thing she taught me was correct posture. The way an opera singer stands on the stage determines how their aria will go. The stance should be: opened-up shoulders, straight torso, completely at ease, balance between spirit and body, gracefulness, chin up and sparkling eyes. Raina Kabaivanska taught me how to stand on stage and sing in a way that will capture the audience's imagination. Before I had the chance to learn from her, I was a ball of nerves on stage, I did not know how to act. But she showed me and I have practiced the correct habits ever since. Raina Kabaivanska and her warm eyes were always a source of support.

People call you a 'nightingale' because of the unbelievably high notes you can hold for a long time. To what do you owe this unique skill?

I did not know that people call me that. It is very nice to hear that. I am a lyrical reggero soprano and my singing is always high and rich in notes. Before I met maestra Raina Kabaivanska, I had a problem. But after working with her for a year, I completely changed my breathing to very long and stable exhales. I can honestly say that I owe this to Raina Kabaivanska, who saw my potential and steered it in the right direction. I am so grateful that fate brought me and this unbelievable lady together. Thank you very much, maestra Kabaivanska!

Tell us something about the role of Norina and your work on the project?

Norina is an enchanting, charming and beautiful widow. She is in love with Ernesto, who loves her back. Ernesto stands up to his uncle, Don Pasquale, and refuses to enter into an arranged marriage. Pasquale disapproves of his nephew's choice and decides that it is better that he himself marries. Then doctor Malatesta enters the picture, charged with the task of finding a suitable wife for Pasquale. What Pasquale does not suspect is that Malatesta has devised a plan to help his friend Ernesto. In the second act, I play Malatesta's sister, Sofronia, and join in the plan to dupe Pasquale. It is a convoluted and very funny love intrigue.

Do you like Gaetano Donizetti as a composer?

I love operas by Donizetti! I am a particular fan of Lucia di Lammermoor and I have appeared in L'elisir d'amore (The Elixir of Love) many times. I can sing with ease most of his operas. The full name of this great composer is Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti. He is one of the greatest opera composers of the first half of the 19th century. Alongside Gioachino Rossini and Vincenzo Bellini, he contributed to the incredible rise of the Italia opera and the development of the bel canto style. He was an artist with an amazing talent for melody, which inspired the next generation of composers like Giuseppe Verdi.

Yes, he really was unusual for his time. He worked very fast. He could write an entire opera in two-three weeks and at times managed to create five or six works in only one year. He really liked teaching because of the assistance he could provide to young composers. He was beloved and revered in music circles. Besides operas, he wrote a number of works outside of the genre. In total, he has 75 operas, 16 symphonies, 19 string quartets, 193 songs, 45 duets, 3 oratories and 28 cantatas, as well as numerous instrumental concerts, sonatas and chamber pieces.

Which aria and in what opera would you like to perform in the future?

I would really love singing in Lucia di Lammermoor and Rigoletto. I would also like to sing in the opera Don Juan.

Do you dream? Do you have a particular wish for this year?

Of course, I dream! One of my dreams is to return to Bulgaria and the Sofia Opera and Ballet. I have fallen in love with this theatre and this city! I will miss everyone. I am thankful to the entire team for the wonderful moments I had in Sofia. I already miss them. I would also like to thank maestro Plamen Kartaloff for the invitation and the opportunity to perform on Bulgarian stage, and not just anywhere but at the Sofia Opera. I would love for the Bulgarian audience to remember me, above all, as a true friend of Bulgaria. I want people to be happy, and I try to make them feel that way with my voice. Carry this happiness with you!

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Seonkyong (Eva) Jeong studied classical singing at a Korean university and specialised at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, Germany. She has participated in Raina Kabaivanska's masterclass twice - in 2017 and 2018. Back in her home country, she has appeared in the roles of Musetta from La Boheme, Adina in L'elisir d'amore (The Elixir of Love), and Adele in Die Fledermaus (The Bat). She has also performed the roles of Carmen's Mercedes in Korea and in Wroclaw, Poland, and Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) in Essen, Germany. She has taken part in concerts in various German cities.

Recently, she was a guest-soloist of the Sofia Opera and Ballet, playing the part of Norina in Don Pasquale by composer Gaetano Donizetti.

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