South Korean baritone Joo Won Kang continues to establish himself as one of the most talented baritones today, popular both with audience and critics.
As the 2017-2018 season commences, Mr. Kang returns to San Francisco Opera, as Ping in the company’s opening-night production of Turandot. A member of the 2011 Merola Opera Program, he was later an Adler Fellow and appeared onstage at SFO in various roles, including Captain Gardiner in Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick, which was televised nationally on PBS and released on DVD. Later this season will mark Mr. Kang’s company debuts with Arizona Opera (Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia) and Opera Theatre of St. Louis (Germont in La Traviata).
Highlights of Mr. Kang’s 2016-2017 season included his debut at Ireland’s Wexford Festival, where he sang the leading role of Corrado in Donizetti’s Maria de Rudenz, with great success. Opera News called his “the standout voice of this year’s festival.” He performed the role of Chou En-lai in John Adam’s Nixon in China with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by the composer, and appeared with Opera Maine as Germont.
Mr. Kang sang the title role in Eugene Onegin with North Carolina Opera in 2015-2016, a season during which he also performed the Barbiere Figaro with Fort Worth Opera, and made his debut in Les Pêcheurs de Perles with Seattle Opera. In addition, Mr. Kang returned to Wolf Trap Opera to sing Sharpless in Madama Butterfly with the National Symphony Orchestra.
He was the first-prize winner of Fort Worth Opera’s 2014 McCammon Voice Competition, which led to recital appearances both in Fort Worth and New York City. He has also garnered top prizes in such important vocal competitions as the Gerda Lissner International Competition, Opera Index Vocal Competition, Giulio Gari International Competition, Palm Beach International Competition, and the Ades Vocal Competition at Manhattan School of Music, as well as a Semi-Finalist placement in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
|Adams||Nixon in China||Cho En-Lai|
|Bizet||Le pecheur de perles||Zurga*|
|Donizetti||Maria de Rudenz||Corrado|
|Heggie||Moby Dick||Captain Gardiner|
|Mozart||Cosi fan tutte||Guglielmo|
|Mozart||Le nozze di Figaro||Count Almaviva|
|Poulenc||Les Mamelles de Tiresias||Theater Director|
|Rossini||Il barbiere di Siviglia||Figaro|
|Tchaickovsky||Eugene Onegin||Eugene Onegin|
” ‘Dite alla giovine’ was also beautifully and movingly sung, as Natale joined in duet with Joo Won Kang, a most impressive Germont. Kang’s rich, resonant baritone complemented his portrayal of a man whose dignity and sense of propriety may be paramount, but who still understands what Violetta’s sacrifice has cost her and can ultimately grieve with Alfredo. Kang’s ‘Di Provenza il mar’ was notable for his superb phrasing of the long legato lines.”
“As Corrado, Joo Won Kang’s command of line and phrasing, solid vocal core and beautiful tone made him the STANDOUT VOICE of this year’s Festival.”
“It helps that Wexford has assembled a superb cast, led by Korean Joo Won Kang’s radiant Corrado. How rare to have a Donizetti baritone role of such meatiness, and how wonderful to have a singer to take full advantage of that – even from top to bottom, and with a lovely sense of line through even the fussiest of passages. His opening “Eglia, ancora non giunge” was a stand-out.”
“Korean Baritone Joo Won Kang is consistently exciting as Corrado”
“Equally fine was baritone Joo Won Kang (singing a role which was premiered by great Donizetti baritone Giorgio Ronconi) as Corrado Waldorf. His rich and powerful instrument had no problems with Donizetti’s line; the baritone gets a lot of the best music here. (Kang also performed at a stunning recital which ran the gamut from Beethoven to some beautiful songs from his native Korea; his is a name to watch for.)”
“The singers were all top-notch… For all Corrado’s despicable character traits, one understood why Maria kept coming back for more with singing this good from the former lover. Joo Won Kang delivered a fine performance of a difficult role, his honeyed baritone voice ringing true from the start….”
“Corrado requires a kind of Verdi baritone and is the character who has the most to sing throughout the opera. The role was played by Joo Won Kang, who has an attractive and important voice.”
“The week’s knockout recital was saved for the final spot, on November 5. Korean baritone Joo Won Kang gave an exemplary performance from beginning to end, superbly partnered at the piano by Andrea Grant. His Golden-Age tone and superb phrasing ignited Beethoven’s “Adelaide,” and he lent his formidable interpretive skills to Gerald Finzi’s cycle of Shakespeare songs, “Let Us Garlands Bring.” Kang’s flawless judging of just how much emotion to invest made “Come Away, Death” and “Fear No More the Heat o’ the Sun” unforgettable listening experiences. His English diction is excellent, and he made Fiddler on the Roof’s “If I Were a Rich Man” entirely his own. Before his breathtaking, full-bodied performance of Die Tote Stadt’s “Tanzlied,” he spoke of the time he had spent at the festival—“this beautiful memory of Wexford. I am having this memory, and bringing this memory to my home.” It was a sentiment that was sure to resonate with many in the audience.”
“McCammon winner Joo Won Kang stands out!
The star of the show was Figaro himself-baritone Joo Won Kang.
He blew away the competition in the Fort Worth Opera’s 2014 McCammon voice Competition, winning the audience award, as well as the judges’ nods. It was clear when he first came onstage Saturday night that the MAGIC was still there!”
“Joo Won Kang, as the eponymous barber Figaro, seems a BORN COMEDIAN! Unflaggingly spirited..And what a GORGEOUS voice! It’s a baritone both substantive and well-focused, nimble and capable of marvelous colorations.”
“Figaro the barber was MASTERFULLY sung by baritone Joo Won Kang!”
“This is Figaro’s show, and the FWO wisely cast baritone Joo Won Kang, the Top Winner in the company’s 2014 McCammon Voice Competition, in the role. He turns in a STELLAR performance!”
The cast was – in a word – spectacular. Onegin was richly and evenly portrayed by baritone Joo Won Kang
“Joo Won Kang was a wonderfully expressive Sharpless”
Wolf Trap Opera
“The three leading roles were sung exquisitely by rising starts of the opera world. Joo Won Kang as Germont, portrayed a complex character. Not a villain, but a hero, his stentorian, precise baritone brought pathos to the opera’s second act.”
“As Germont, baritone Joo Won Kang used his powerful, rounded tone to characterize Germont’s bullying authority, but also warmly projected Germont’s lyrical, reflective moments.”
Les Mamelles de Tiresias, Wolf Trap Opera - “The whole thing is introduced by a stage manager, sung with strength and aplomb by Joo Won Kang.”
“But the strongest element by far was the performance of the South Korean baritone Joo Won Kang, a former FGO Young Artists now in San Francisco Opera’s prestigious Adler program. He brough a rich, focused tone to the role of Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont, singing with warm humanity in the aria Di Provenza and stern paternal authority as he admonished his son for humiliating Violetta.”
“Without discounting the estimable contributions of each of the eleven singers, three stood out. Erin Johnson, Ao Li and baritone Joo Won Kang, who departs after a phenomenal showing. If these three do not score major roles in major houses well before the end of the decade, something is very wrong with the world.”
“In Kang’s two Verdi scenes, first as Simon Boccanegra to Soprano Marina Harris’ Amelia, and then as Rodrigo in “Io mio Carlo…Per me giunto”, he confirmed that he is, if not THE Verdi baritone of the next decade, then one of the select few who will inherit the mantle. Not only does he have a tremendous voice that projects a fireworks display of dark colorations, but he also possesses the impeccable control needed to taper Boccanegra’s final utterance, “Figlia” to a breath taking thread.”
“Korean Baritone dominates McCammon Voice Competition…Joo Won Kang dominated the 2014 McCammon Voice Competition on Saturday afternoon, taking not only the competition’s $15,000 first prize but also the audience-favorite award by the largest margin in the contest’s 29 years.”
“McCammon officials said that Kang, 32, was voted the audience favorite by a 300 percent margin over the rest of the field. In addition to the cash prize Kang will be awarded with a role with the Fort Worth Opera.”
“That Kang was going to be a powerful contender was obvious from the first notes of Figaro’s “Largo al factotum” from Rossini’s Barber of Seville. His performance exuded maturity, self-confidence and professionalism as well as an appealing vocal quality. He also exhibited the ability to master music of a very varied character, with the contrasting “Di Provenza” from Verdi’s La Traviata.”
“Baritone Joo Won Kang of Seoul, South Korea, won the top prize in the advanced division. Kang sang “Vision Fugitive” from Act II of Massenet’s “Hérodiade”, a work that rarely gets a staging anymore but from which this aria still survives. Kang has a very fine, attractive voice, and excellent technique, which was in evidence particularly in the transition to the final recurrence of the main melody, which Kang handled deftly. This was a performance of substantial smoothness and warmth.”
“A fellow bohemian, the painter Marcello, was portrayed by Joo Won Kang who’s powerful melodious baritone was a high point of the afternoon.”
“Possessing a natural instrument of precisely the correct weight for the role, the voice secure throughout the range and the upper extension reaching top G without strain, Joo Won Kang was a Germont of severity, moral authority, and ultimately, great sympathy.”
“Mr. Kang’s account of “Di Provenza”, one of the greatest arias for the baritone voice (and one of the most difficult to sing well), was exquisite, his breath control equal to the demands of the music.”
Verdi baritones are some of the rarest creatures in Opera. Hearing one on good form is a matchless pleasure. Hearing one in a city like Raleigh is unexpected, but Mr. Kang distinguished North Carolina Opera’s LA TRAVIATA with a Germont as good as the BEST IN THE WORLD, past and present!
MediaJoo Won Kang, Baritone, Egli ancora non giunge, MARIA DE RUDENZ, Wexford Festival, 2016
Joo Won Kang with Tenor Jesus Garcia, Il Primo De'beni, MARIA DE RUDENZ, Wexford Festival, 2016
Joo Won Kang, Baritone, Vieni in quel giorno essa m'attende, MARIA DE RUDENZ, Wexford Festival, 2016
Joo Won Kang, Baritone, Di Provenza, La Traviata, Verdi, Emerging Artists NY Debut Recital, Forth Worth Opera's McCammon competition winner, Opera America, September, 2014
Joo Won Kang, Baritone, Pierrot's Tanzlied, Die Tode Stadt, Korngold, McCammon Voice Competition, 2014
Joo Won Kang, Baritone, Ja vas lyublyu, Pique Dame, Tchaichovsky, Viñas 2014
Joo Won Kang, Baritone, è sogno o realta?, Falstaff, Verdi, Viñas 2014
Joo Won Kang, Baritone, Cento Leggiadre vergini, Il Corsaro, Verdi, Adler Fellows Concert, San Francisco Opera, 2012