Interviews to the winners of the Tenor Viñas Competition

Interview with the soprano Sumi Jo, winner of the First Grand Prize in 1985.


1.    How started your love for music? When did you realized that you wanted to be a singer? 

My mother wanted to be a classical singer but she didn’t have the possibility to become it. My destiny was already decided before being born, listening to Callas and Tebaldi recordings. I was not happy at all practicing piano too many hours, but finally I had in Italy the right teachers and people who helped me in my decision of becoming a singer.


2.     Why did you decide to apply to Tenor Viñas Competition?

I had already won some international competitions but I wanted to apply to the Viñas as it was internationally very well-known by young singers.


3.     How was your participation at the Competition? 

I won First Prize in 1985, I am feeling old now. 


4.     Which was the most special moment for you in Barcelona during the competition? 

I was the first asian singer to win the Competition and I was only 22 years old. The most exciting moment was when I sung for the first time at the beautiful Gran Teatre del LIceu. I still remember how moved I was. 


5.     Did help you in your career to win the first prize of Tenor Viñas Competition? 

Yes, absolutely. Just after winning the Competition they invited me to participate at the Cappelli Competition in Verona, just devoted to winners of other competitions. And I made it as well! 


6.     You have sung a big repertory in both opera and concert. Do you think that it’s important for a singer to sing both specialities?

I was dreaming of becoming a concert singer, a soloist. But for this I needed much experience working with great conductors, good colleagues and singing  opera and operetta as well. They are different specialities but all of them needed for the development of a good carrera. Music is always beautiful in all her possibilities, from classical to modern and also playing an instrument. I have experienced most of them: opera, operetta, recital, crossover, soap opera, film, etc.


7.     You have been conducted by the most important conductors. Which should be the optimal relationship between a singer and a conductor?

Any singer is very lucky if the conductor wants to support and help him/her. In my career I have seen some very unpleasant situations when the conductor behaves as a dictator. The ideal musical relationship should be to be honest and complementary between conductor and singer, respecting each other’s position. 


8.     You have had an important career. Which is your opinion about marketing? Today so necessary?

Well, I don’t know if I have had the correct marketing but being a businessman’s daughter, I have always known about the importance of marketing, especially in our days. What it meant to be a “divo” in the years 50 or 60, doesn’t exist anymore. Today, YouTube, social media etc. are the important matter. 


9.     Which should be the most important purpose for a young singer participating at a competition as Tenor Viñas? 

My own situation was that I was needing money to survive. I was in Italy and my parents could not help me anymore. Competitions help young singers to start in the opera world, find the right agent and to have new experiences.


10.     Could you give an advice to a young singer at the beginning of the his career? The same advice applying to a competition.

The most important thing is to take care of one self. To increase physical resistence and to think always positive. To perform any kind of music is not only a dream, but it means that we can help the world with some delicacy, harmony and peace.


11.     Memories of special moments of your long career? 

Anywhere, it doesn’t matter if it was a small or big place, I have had beautiful moments. I have always been thinking that wherever I was I should make it special. But there have been important moments for me as my debut at the Metropolitan, Covent Garden.. To be at the Academy Awards (nomination for the song “Simple song number 3” for the best original song in the film “Youth”)....Or to sing at the opening of the Olympic Games…Sydney, Beijing, Kazakhstan…


12.     How has changed the music world since you started till today?

The world has changed a lot especially in music. It makes me so sad to see so many good singers who appear and desappear so fast. I know that the artist’s looking has become more important that the real talent, because of the social media. But the artista resists much more having a real talent and determnation fo learn and improve.


13.     Which is your opinion about the fact that so many corean singers are applying to the Tenor Viñas competition, some of them of a real high artistic level?

To win the Viñas Competition was an incredible new in Corea and in the whole Orient. I am so grateful to Viñas Competition for the possibility of becoming a model to be imitated by so many young singers. I am so happy that so many young corean singers have done my way in order accomplishing their own dreams.