Unknown Korean is Vienna’s new Tosca

Unknown Korean is Vienna’s new Tosca


norman lebrecht

January 27, 2017

Sae Kyung Rim steps up for Adrianne Pieczonca as Tosca on January 31 and February 3, making her Vienna debut.

She facesĀ Aleksandrs Antonenko as Cavaradossi and Thomas Hampson as Scarpia, Placido Domingo conducting.

Some debut.


  • Emil says:

    She sang Butterfly there two years ago. Some debut indeed. http://operabase.com/diary.cgi?lang=en&code=wawis&date=20150126

  • Maria says:

    She can play both Cio-Cio-San and Tosca but, according to some, a European soprano should only be able to play Tosca.

    I hope these inconsistencies are sorted out in due course.

    • Josette Nicholls says:

      If she can sing the role then she can assume the role regardless of being European. We recently heard her sing Butterfly in Leipzig and there is no doubt she will be the perfect Tosca.

      • Alexander says:

        I think you have read the comment the wrong way round. To be fair, it took me two readings to understand the point being made. I believe that what Maria is criticising is the view, held by some these days, that is it acceptable for an Asian to perform a European role (“She can play both Cio-Cio-San and Tosca”), but that it is not acceptable for a European to perform an Asian role (“a European soprano should only be able to play Tosca “). This idea has been promoted recently by some members of the Asian American community in light of casting of some operas including The Mikado (in New York, San Francisco, and Seattle, and perhaps others that I don’t know of) and Nixon in China. In the case of The Mikado the argument is wholly without merit, as the work was intended to satirise only one racial group, namely, the English.

        I know of only two instances in which a white European has objected to a white European character being performed by a singer of black or Asian heritage, both involving Willard White. He has given an account of a Russian soprano who objected to his singing the role of Prince Gremin in a production in which she sang the role of Tatyana, as she claimed that it was implausible that a Russian woman would marry a black man. Somebody also once claimed that, as a black man, he could not represent Wotan. People such as these are, rightly, considered to be racist. When certain Asians, however, claim that white people should not perform Asian roles, they are not said to be racist. In fact, they claim that white people who perform Asian roles are themselves racist. Many object to the use of “yellowface” makeup (though in the case of Japanese characters the makeup is often white), but some even object to seeing white people wearing Asian clothing, e.g. kimonos. Funnily enough, the Japanese have long been enthusiastic in their adoption of western (especially British) dress, e.g. the sailor suits worn by many Japanese schoolchildren are based on a costume first worn by the future King Edward VII when he was Prince of Wales.

    • Bruce says:

      I hope she sings Aida too, just to watch all the “you have to be one to play one” heads explode šŸ˜›

      • Rimfan says:

        She does. It is her most performed role after Madama Butterfly. Aida is a very common role for Asian sopranos.

    • Fan says:

      Maria, your comment is disingenuous, although predictable. As silly as recent protest regarding Nixon in China, white opera singers will never face the same challenges as non-white opera singers even the latter are as good as them or even better musically. The simple fact the said Korean soprano’s last major role is no other than Ciocio-san speaks volumes.

      Of course, this is not to say racism is necessary to blame for the lack of non-white opera singers: after all, opera is a European art form with global appeal.

      • Maria says:

        I merely said that I hope that the inconsistencies can be sorted out.

        If anyone is being predictable, it is you, with your holier-than-thou virtue signalling. But then that is to be expected around here.

        So long as casting in opera attracts accusations of racism, rightly or wrongly, opera (and drama, which is also affected) will suffer. I merely hope that some sort of agreement can be established so that we can all move on.

        OK now?

      • Alexander says:

        From what I’ve read I can count at least 25 roles in her repertoire, of which only three are Asian characters. And Cio-Cio-San is a great role for any soprano to have in her repertoire. That one of the most loved roles in the whole of opera happens to be Japanese is incidental.

        I don’t know where you are from, but here in London we regularly see Korean singers on the stage of the Royal Opera House, almost exclusively in European roles.

  • Michelle says:

    Was in the Wienstaatsoper 31/1. It was a terrible Tosca. Kim can sing but no soul. That’s all! P.S. I’m Asian

  • Michelle says:

    Was in the Wienstaatsoper 31/1. It was a terrible Tosca. Waste my journey from London to Vienna! Rim can sing but no soul. That’s all! P.S. I’m Asian