We caught up with Korean baritone Gihoon Kim, who we have welcomed to the AH family for general management, to find out more about his journey so far, his inspirations and his hopes for the future.
Born in Gokseong, Jeollanam-do in South Korea (“a very small town with little environment for musical education”), baritone Gihoon Kim was first introduced to music through the pop his parents listened to at home. “My parents are not musicians,” Gihoon told us. “My father is a licensed real estate agent and my mother is a housewife, but they enjoyed singing and they sing very well. Whenever we got together at family occasions, we would always sing things like K-pop, and I think this helped me grow into a musician.”
Though he has always loved music – “I used to secretly imitate classical singers on TV because it was fun” – Gihoon didn’t make the decision to pursue a career in music until a chance encounter aged 18 sealed the deal. “At the time, I was singing the bass part in the church choir, and a visiting vocal professor suggested to me that I should pursue vocal studies seriously.”
On persuading his parents of a career in music, Gihoon travelled to a nearby city and was “judged to have the qualities to become a world-class vocalist.” This ultimately led to a place at the prestigious Yonsei University Seoul, where he studied with Professor Kim Kwan-dong, the first Korean to sing at Milan’s La Scala. “I had only been singing for seven months when I first met him, so only had very basic skills. He was the one who taught me the basis of my technique which has made me solid these days. I remember one particular time when I was in a big slump; every time I sang I felt so frustrated and I just wanted to quit singing. In spite of this, Professor Kim believed in me and the potential I had, and he helped support me in overcoming a desperate time.”
During his studies, Gihoon won a scholarship to spend four weeks at the Hannover Opera, and in the 2016/17 season received a scholarship at the Junge Oper Hannover. His roles there have included Demetrius A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Three Spinners in the world premiere of Gregor A. Mayrhofer’s Die drei Spinnerinnen, Marullo Rigoletto, and Melot Tristan und Isolde.
Since then, Gihoon has had a tremendous success at several recent international competitions, including second prizes in both the Tchaikovsky and Operalia competitions, as well as the audience prize at the latter. “Of course, they were very helpful,” he says when asked if these helped him grow as a performer. In a practical sense, the visibility the competitions provided gave Gihoon international recognition, which has of course helped him with his career, as well as meeting, in his own words, “the best agency in the world.” [we’re blushing!]
He’s somewhat philosophical about the necessity of competitions for young singers, saying, “The name may mean competition, but in other words they are opportunities. There are so many really good singers around the world, and I think competitions play a vital role in promoting them.”
Turning to the future, Gihoon is again thoughtful. “I want to be a singer who can sing all the operas for a long time and in good health,” he says. “I want to take it step by step until I appear in famous theatres such as the Metropolitan Opera, Wiener Staatsoper, La Scala, Covent Garden…”
An admirer of Verdi (“I’d love to sing all of Verdi’s music”), he also names Baron Scarpia from Puccini’s Tosca as a role he’d love to perform in the future. “I think it’s more sinister for to have a villain with a nice smiley face, like the Joker in Batman. I am a naturally smiley person which makes me perfect for the bad guy role, because it would frighten the audiences all the more! Plus, the music is really cool; I get a thrill every time I hear the bells in the Te deum.”
Gihoon Kim will be represented at Askonas Holt by Nathan Morrison and Mark Hildrew.