A Covent Garden star is now singing K-pop

A Covent Garden star is now singing K-pop


norman lebrecht

January 23, 2023

The South Korean bass-baritone ByeongMin Gil was one of the 2019 intake in the ROH’s Jette Parker young artists programme.

Where is he now?

Singing K-Pop.

And he needs a mike to get heard.

Covent Garden is the national opera company. It really needs to attend more to its national responsibilities.

This is such a waste of a precious resource.


  • N/A says:

    Norman, who’s to say it’s a waste of a resource? Shouldn’t you first wait to see how he does in his new venture before deciding that? Or are you just assuming k-pop is worthless? FYI, k-pop ranks higher on the list of the world’s most popular genres than opera/classical music does 🙂

  • Maria says:

    Covent Garden is an INTER-national house, not a national one. That is ENO. Not everyone makes it to be a star for a whole range of reasons, and not all about a first class voice anymore. There were in my time, chorus members all very well trained with second jobs, like selling insurance! This guy may well be far more financially secure owing to what he is doing in this climate get a mortgage, make a name for himself, have a personal life, than in opera today in a cost of living crisis not to get better any sooner.

  • Humphrey says:

    Mr. Lebrecht, this is clickbait!

    1. ByeongMin Gil was not an opera star. His last role was in 2020 as the 2nd prisoner in Fidelio at CG. Being in the Jette Program is a far cry from being a star.

    2. Making a career today as young opera singer (even as the winner of multiple competitions) is extremely challenging, especially if you are Asian in a European market. Furthermore, aside from CG, the fees in the UK for young singers are notoriously low, making paying rent (forget a mortgage) in London nearly impossible. This is why the continent is flooded with British singers trying to make a living.

    3. Please tell me how many graduates of the Jette program ‘give back’ to the nation by singing in places like Opera North or Garsington when they become ‘opera stars’?

    4. Do you think it’s easy to make it to the top of K-pop? There are literally thousands of young Koreans trying to do this. Good for him for finding a way to make a living as a singer today!

  • Edward says:

    How many conservatoire students don’t make an international performing career? Is this a “lack of responsibility” on their part? Some simply aren’t quite good enough, some are but don’t make it perhaps because they don’t look sexy enough on a poster, some try it and decide it’s not for them, the lifestyle and lousy pay is not for everyone, etc etc. There are many reasons people leave classical music careers (in recent times our philistine government has made it quite clear how little they value the profession) it cannot be laid at the door of whichever institution they trained at.

  • Ernest says:

    With looks like his, I am not surprised he’s snapped up by the K Pop agents. Opera’s loss is K Pop’s gain!

  • niloiv says:

    Opera singer singing K-Pop is not a waste of resource. Most pop music is of low artistic quality, just because there’s not quite enough ‘resource’ talent-wise in the industry. Well trained classical musicians are exactly what the industry needs. It would be more of a waste of the resource spent on training those talented young artists, for them to struggle for a living just so they could remain ‘classical musicians’

  • Orchestra Snob says:

    Do you even know what K-Pop is? Because this isn’t it.

  • Peter says:

    “It really needs to attend more to its national responsibilities.This is such a waste of a precious resource.”

    Norman, I hope this isn’t your way of saying don’t spend British money on foreigners.

  • Wannaplayguitar says:

    Over the decades I have heard countless well known ‘crooners’ both male and female, who no doubt could have made a career in opera with the requisite years of intensive training at music academies, but the allure of fast buck, package deal stardom on the commercial merry-go- round lures them away to a life on the road, that guarantees at least, that bills and rent are paid foreseeably.

  • Emil says:

    Singer sings, News at 10.

    Also, anything happened between 2019 and now which may have presented problems for opera singers trying to launch a career? Hmmmm…
    There are many reasons why singers may want to move away from professional opera careers. That doesn’t make them failures.

  • Dan says:

    I’m no K-pop expert but that sounds more like pop for the more mature audience. I played stuff like that in a Vietnamese band 20 years ago. I remember mostly the good food we ate at Christmas and Buddha’s birthday parties.