Louise Hogan offers a wonderful insight into our recent tour to East Asia
We are here with Sumi Jo, a star soprano the like of which we have never experienced. One dress is not enough, make it five, each one more spectacular than the last. She travels with a devoted entourage and is sweet and smiling, always kind and appreciative.
Daejeon three hours north of Seoul is our first stop. The orchestra works through a fog of jet lag. Luckily the time difference means that by the start of the concert, we are all awake and feeling a little more normal. The hall is full and the audience go wild when Sumi Jo appears. For the encore, she performs a quick change off-stage, and appears moments later in Korean dress. The audience double their appreciation and I worry there might be a stampede.
Meal times are often a source of stress on tour. Before the concert in Daejeon, we choose a tofu restaurant and march there enmasse. They wince when we come in. With no English menu we are very much stuck. We usually have one poor soul in the group who can translate, but on this occasion, there is no one. After much confusion and futile attempts to communicate, one of the enterprising staff locates a diner who has a smattering of English. I feel desperately sorry for him as he attempts to tell a group of hungry foreigners what’s on the menu. It has rarely taken that long to order.
For our second concert, we return south to Incheon. The hall is huge and beautiful, sitting elegantly at the end of a canal, next to the sea. At the end of the concert, Sumi Jo brings us forward for the audience to take photographs. I smile out at the sea of smartphones, feeling like an imposter. Backstage, we pose for more photographs and say our farewells. She tells us she has been worried about singing baroque repertoire, but holding onto Harry’s shoulders tightly, she says how much she has enjoyed our time together.