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05/21/2018 Interview > Alumni

Title

The Asian Romeo

Successful debut at the New York Met

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Shin Sang-keun (Voice, '94), also known as Andrea Shin, has successfully made his debut at the New York Metropolitan Opera House (New York Met) as Romeo. Being the first Asian to perform at the New York Met, Shin has opened a new road for future potential opera singers who wish to perform on a more global scale.


His successful debut at the New York Met


Although this is his second season at the New York Met, it was this season that he was referred to as making his official debut at the Met, being able to perform on the opening stage of Romeo and Juliet. It is exceptional for an Asian opera singer to lead the whole stage as a main character, as there have been certain glass ceilings that have existed against non-white singers. Shin showed his satisfaction towards this particular performance due to the fact that there were two more Asian opera singers who were able to share the stage with him.     
 
Shin Sang-keun (Voice,'94) starring as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet held at the New York Metropolitan Opera House. Having a successful debut this season, Shin is the first Asian to be staged on the New York Met (Photo courtesy of Shin).

“Out of ten total Opera performers, even two Asian singers are considered to be too many. Likewise, the proportion of Asian opera singers who have been able to stand on foreign stages has been relatively low,” maintained Shin during the interview. For this reason, Shin was even more touched at the audiences’ high applause after his performance as Romeo at the New York Met.

The applause and fiery response from the audience allowed Shin to feel that he had succeeded in actually giving "some kind of inspiration" to the audience. He explained his most touching experience of when he moved from the Karlsruhe Theater to the Hanover Theater in Germany. After his last concert at the Karlsruhe Theater, the executive of the theater popped open a bottle of champagne on stage. The audience responded with enthusiastic applause and shouted out for Shin to stay longer at the Karlsruhe Theater. It is this kind of experience that Shin finds most rewarding, in that he has succeeded in inspiring and communicating with his audience.  


Hardships to overcome


Despite his successful career as a tenor, Shin has had to overcome many difficulties. Loneliness was a main hardship that he had to overcome, especially when performing in foreign countries. Although he had two Asian companions this season at the Met, he talked about how he had to become used to the sense of being alone when performing in other global theaters. This was also related to Shin having to stay away from his family for long time periods. Shin, being a successful tenor who performs on many stages worldwide, only has around three months to stay with his family. Even these three months are usually split into weekly terms, making them feel even shorter.   
 
Uncertainty was another factor that hindered Shin during his career. Majoring in the musical field has relatively higher risks when searching for a stable position. Even after barely finding his first job, it was strenuous for Shin to be cast at a fine theater doing opera. “The time and cost input are met with high levels of uncertainty that hinder potential opera singers from following their path,” added Shin during the interview.

In order to overcome such hardships, Shin provided advice to his potential colleagues. “Instead of pouring everything into a short-term plan, you have to look at the long-term goal. It is more like running a marathon,” advised Shin. He talked about the importance of being able to maintain one’s fitness rather than exhausting oneself in a short period of time. As for those who have the goal of performing in foreign theaters, Shin stated the importance of understanding the foreign culture and delivering the correct text to the audience. He explained that Korean opera singers are already highly accomplished in technical aspects, yet in order to deliver the right text, studying the verbal sense and details of the particular language is also important.  
 
Shin's poster of the Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball), which was held during his career at the Karlsruhe Theater in Germany (Photo Courtesy of Shin)

Shin ended the interview by sharing his future goals as an opera singer. Already following a successful path as a tenor, Shin now has the aim of showing higher quality performances to the audience. He also wishes to see an increased number of Korean opera singers in the major global opera theaters. Shin wrapped up by saying that “Korea is often referred to as a major country in the field of opera. In order to enhance its stance, it is now the details that have to be concentrated on. By focusing on the details, Korea will see its opera singers expanding into major global opera theaters.”
 


Choi Seo-yong
      tjdyd1@hanyang.ac.kr
 
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