Carnegie Hall 2022-23 Review: Soprano Hera Hyesang Park
The Korean Cultural Center New York & Korea Music Foundation Present ‘Songs of Her: Hera Hyesang Park’By Jennifer Pyron
Photo: Taehyun Hwang/Korean Cultural Center New York
Soprano Hera Hyesang Park had her debut recital at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall on Friday, March 3rd, in celebration of Women’s History Month and the 70th Anniversary of the alliance between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea. In the 2022-23 season, Hera performed Adina in “L’Elisir d’amore” at Staatsoper Berlin, and on March 12th, she made her debut as Nanetta in Verdi’s “Falstaff” at the Met Opera. Park will also perform the titular role of Pamina in Mozart’s “Die Zauberflöte” at Teatró Colon of Buenos Aires in May 2023 and sing Mahler’s “Symphony No.4” with the San Diego Symphony on April 21st and 22nd. The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra will also showcase Händel’s “Acis and Galatea,” as conducted by Richard Egarr, featuring Hera Hyesang Park, on July 9th and at Tanglewood on July 17th, 2023.
In September 2022, Park joined Lewis Holland Artist Management and has remained dedicated to her own inspirational core values in all her work. Hera’s Carnegie Hall recital, “Songs of Her,” reflected her essence in many ways. Joined by pianist Katelan Trần Terrell, “Songs of Her” inspired listeners to connect with their own soulful journeys through the universality of the human voice.
Songs of Her
The Korean Cultural Center of New York & Korea Music Foundation presented Park’s “Songs of Her,” featuring works by Amy Beach and new works by Cecilia Livingston and Korean composers Hyowon Woo and Gihieh Lee. The program, chosen by Hera, highlighted the multidimensional perspectives of those who identify as women and pushed the boundaries of their own art in meaningful ways.
Hera’s opening works by Amy Beach featured “The Year’s at the Spring, Op.44,” “Ecstasy from Three Songs, Op.19, No.2,” and “Elle et moi from Three Songs, Op.21, No.3.” This collection showcased Hera’s bright and jubilant voice exceptionally well. All throughout, she was engaged with her core and managed to share her enthusiasm without compromising her voice when the music became most enlivened. Park’s interpretation of “The Year’s at the Spring” felt especially refreshing and vibrant. Overall, her brilliant tone translated Beach’s three works with a sense of pure joy and excitement.
Hera’s next choice was a world premiere by composer Cecilia Livingston entitled “Breath Alone.” Before she sang, Hera briefly shared with the audience how she and Livingston met at Glyndebourne. The two bonded over a conversation about what makes life most meaningful and how they convey this meaning through their own work. Hera also shared more about the pair’s connection through meditation. Cecilia Livingston’s “Breath Alone” explored Hera’s voice in alternate ways of curiosity. Through both vocal melodies and breathy sounds, this piece reflected on what it is that makes the human voice a universal connector in nuanced forms. Pianist Katelan Trần Terrell featured the nostalgic piano part reminiscent of Philip Glass’s repetitive phrasing, and together this piece came to life. “Breath Alone” was written for Hera’s voice and her soulful expression as a whole. Audience members were captivated by this piece.
Women for Women
Nina Simone’s piano rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was featured next by pianist Katelan Trần Terrell. Terrell’s performance was vivacious and uplifting. She radiated in her beauty as she played. Then, Hera introduced Hyowon Woo’s world premiere of her two songs, “Gasiri” and “Ari Arirang.” Hyowon Woo is a South Korean composer who uses elements from both Korean music and Western contemporary techniques to create new work. Both “Gasiri” and “Ari Arirang” highlighted Hera’s coloratura and Korean heritage. Hera’s voice was intimate and pure as she sang. This was a very emotional part of the recital, a reflection on her past and an embrace of her future. Hyowon Woo was also in the audience to share this very special and historical moment. Audience members were noticeably moved by these pieces.
Hera also featured a new work by Korean composer Gihieh Lee entitled “Llagas de amor.” This song is an aria from “13 FRUITCAKES,” the first Korean LGBTQ Musical Extravaganza premiered at La MaMa in 2019. “13 FRUITCAKES” lyrics are by Queer poets who inspire awareness towards social injustice. Hera’s voice sounded stunning while singing “Llagas de amor.” The dynamism and vocal colors of this piece allowed her to really shine and go all out with her stage presence. Every song felt like it was leading up to this vocally intense song. Hera’s voice filled the entire hall in all its glory.
Works by Paurillo Barroso, María Grever, Xavier Montsalvatge, Jaime León, and Consuelo Velázquez were also featured during the recital. Both Hera and Katelan Trần Terrell performed seamlessly together. This combination made an excellent middle section for the evening’s lineup and gave Hera the opportunity to vocally give her all during “ Llagas de amor.” The main takeaway from this recital was Hera’s natural gift for engaging audience members. Whether she was singing or telling a story about her next song, she made everyone feel welcomed and included in her journey. Her grace, humility and soulful presence made a lasting impression on everyone.
Before the recital’s close, Hera said, “For me, singing in Carnegie Hall has always been my dream. I want to encourage you all to dream big. My mom taught me that dreaming costs nothing. It is free of charge. You can dream whatever you want. Just be prepared for the future because your dreams may all come true.”
Hera’s final song was “Psalm 23” from her first debut album with Deutsche Grammophon, “I Am Hera.” In this especially, her voice was light and full of hope. Hera encouraged listeners to go within and resolve to be at peace. “Songs of Her” was an empowering and positive journey from beginning to end.