Having enjoyed more than three decades at the top of the international opera scene, New York Metropolitan Opera veteran and local soprano icon Hong Hei-kyung has her eyes set on Mozart, rather than retirement.
After debuting with Mozart's "The Clemency of Titus" at the Met in 1984, Hong is making her return to the Korean operatic stage for the first time in a decade, tackling another Mozart classic, "The Marriage of Figaro," as the Countess Rosina Almaviva.
"Unlike performing a recital, an opera is a production that takes a lot of people and a lot time, which is why I haven't been able commit to being in an opera (in Korea) for such a long time," Hong said during a press conference held at a cafe in Seoul on Tuesday.
The soprano gave a recital in Seoul last year, celebrating the 30th anniversary of her Metropolitan Opera debut.
Soprano Hong Hei-kyung speaks at a press conference about the upcoming production of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" at a cafe in central Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
"This time around I had the opportunity to take part in a production that I really had my heart set on ― a Mozart opera. I think that the lyrics (for 'Figaro') are just remarkable ― they're perfection ― and I can't wait to return to the stage once again."
A 18th-century four-act comedy, "The Marriage of Figaro" is among the most-performed operas worldwide and stands as a continuation of the plot of Rossini's renowned "The Barber of Seville."
The last time Hong appeared in a Korean opera production was in 2005 with Puccini's "La Boheme."
"Playing a role in a dramatic opera as I did 10 years ago with 'La Boheme' is not as difficult as having to play a comedic role, as I will be this time around," said the soprano.
"However, I feel the part becoming easier to embrace as time goes by," she added, noting that she is also very excited to be taking on a character who does not end up dying in the end, which is more often than not the case for a soprano in a serious opera.
"I'm not going to die this time, so this will be a happy change," she quipped.
A Muak Opera Company production, "The Marriage of Figaro" will be staged at Seoul Arts Center's Opera House from May 8-10.
Singing alongside Hong will be international opera singers Ryan McKinny and Lyubov Petrov as well as Korea's own Sim Ki-hwan and Yoon Jung-nan.
Met opera director Paula Williams will direct the production.
Ticket prices range from 10,000 won (S$12.50) to 180,000 won. For more information, visit, www.sac.or.kr.