Korean-American soprano HEI-KYUNG HONG (Liù) is at the height of a career that has taken her to many of the world’s operatic capitals in an enormous variety of roles ranging from Baroque to contemporary works. Following a remarkably successful debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1984 as Servilia in La clemenza di Tito, conducted by James Levine, she has gone on to sing nearly 350 performances at the Met, including the great Mozart roles Ilia (opposite Plácido Domingo), Pamina, Despina, Zerlina, and both the Countess and Susanna; Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare; Puccini’s Mimì and Lauretta; Gilda in Rigoletto and Liù in Turandot (both opposite Luciano Pavarotti); Gounod’s Juliette; Micaëla in Carmen; Antonia in Les contes d’Hoffmann; Adina in L’elisir d’amore; Marzellina in Fidelio; Rosina in John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles; Eva in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg; and Freia in Das Rheingold, again under James Levine.
In the 2010/11 season, Hong was seen at the Metropolitan Opera in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, conducted by Plácido Domingo, and as Micaëla in Richard Eyre’s production of Carmen, under the baton of Edward Gardner. She also returned to LA Opera in the celebrated Mark Morris staging of Handel’s L’allegro, il penseroso, ed il moderato. During the previous season, Hong celebrated a remarkable 25th year at the Met, reviving her portrayal of Violetta in La traviata in honor of this milestone. Hong also performed Strauss’ Vier letzte Lieder and Mahler’s Fourth Symphony at Tanglewood with Levine.
Hei-Kyung Hong has sung in all of the most renowned theaters in North America. She made her Lyric Opera of Chicago debut as Musetta, her San Francisco Opera debut as Gilda, and has appeared at the opera companies of Dallas, Los Angeles, and Washington, among many others. Her triumphant Canadian Opera Company debut as Mimì was televised throughout Canada. Most recently she added the iconic role of Violetta for the Washington Opera to rave reviews and overwhelming audience response.
European theaters have received Hei-Kyung Hong with rare enthusiasm. Her debut at La Scala as Musetta, followed by her radiant Liù in Turandot, resulted in an offer to open their 2004 season in the famed theater’s newly renovated house as Mimì. Her debuts at Covent Garden and in Rome were again as Liù. Paris has heard her as Micaëla, the Countess in Figaro, and as Liù; in Vienna, she has been heard as Mimì; in Munich she has sung both Mimì and the Countess; and in Amsterdam she starred in a new production of La bohème created for her by Pierre Audi.
Hei-Kyung Hong’s orchestral repertoire is as broad as her operatic experience. She has sung Bach with Trevor Pinnock and the Montreal Symphony, and the late conductor and composer Giuseppe Sinopoli wrote his Lou Salome Suite for her, which they premiered together with the New York Philharmonic. She has appeared with the Boston Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and many others under conductors such as Charles Dutoit, Mariss Jansons, Seiji Ozawa, André Previn, and Lorin Maazel, with whom she sang the Final Scene from Daphne for the Bayerische Rundfunk.
In January 1998, Hei-Kyung Hong presented her sold-out New York recital debut at Alice Tully Hall. That same year, she gave a recital at the White House by special invitation for President Clinton and President Kim of Korea. She was seen again in Washington for a duo concert marking the North American debut of celebrated tenor Andrea Bocelli at the Kennedy Center’s Spring Gala.
Hei-Kyung Hong’s first solo recording of operatic arias was released in 1998 on RCA Red Seal. The following year she recorded Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi and Bellezze Vocale, a recording of operatic duets with mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore, both for Teldec Classics. Her discography also includes Carmina Burana with the Atlanta Symphony for Telarc Records, Hear My Prayer – a recording of sacred songs with New York City’s Voices of Ascension Chorus – for Delos Records, and a recording of Korean songs with orchestra for Virgin Classics. The soprano made her recording debut as Woglinde in Das Rheingold under the baton of James Levine, and appears on many other recordings and DVDs originating from her operatic performances.
A native of Seoul, Korea, Hei-Kyung Hong is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music and its American Opera Center. While at Juilliard, she participated in master classes given by Tito Gobbi, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Walter Legge, and Gerard Souzay. A winner of the 1982 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, her awards and honors include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation, a career grant from the Richard Tucker Foundation, and Washington National Opera’s Artist of the Year for her acclaimed performances of Tatiana in Eugene Onegin. Hong resides with her family in New York.