The beautiful Korean-American soprano Hei-Kyung Hong 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 over 350 performances at the Met in an artistic relationship spanning 30 years and counting, 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. Several of these performances were either broadcast on the Live from the Met series on PBS or were recorded for DVD and are available on the Deutsche Grammophon label.
Hei-Kyung Hong’s engagements of the 2015-16 season include her long-awaited debut as Cio-Cio-San in Puccini's Madama Butterfly at the Metropolitan Opera, in addition to performances at the Met as Mimi in La bohème. Recent seasons have seen her in Metropolitan Opera performances of La bohème and Carmen, as well as a solo recital at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and multiple concert tours in her native home of Korea.
She 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 operatic repertoire expanded in these settings to include triumphs as Massenet’s Manon, Tatiana in Eugene Onegin, and Leila in Les Pêcheurs de Perles. Her triumphant Canadian Opera Company debut as Mimì was televised throughout Canada. Most recently she added the iconic role of Violetta in La traviata for the Washington Opera, with rave reviews and overwhelming audience response. In the 2006-2007 season she brought her Violetta to the Metropolitan Opera as well as her acclaimed Liù and Mimì to the popular “Met in the Parks” performances. She also made her role debut as Eva in Die Meistersinger.
European theaters have also 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. Together with Maestro Sinopoli, she appeared as Liù in acclaimed concerts of Turandot in Amsterdam; this role also brought her together with Gustavo Dudamel for their first collaboration in performances at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles 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. Ms. Hong was the soprano soloist with the Vancouver Symphony at the opening of Expo 86 and sang with the Calgary Philharmonic under the sponsorship of the Fifteenth Winter Olympics Committee. She made her national television debut in a 1988 PBS Gala Concert, singing excerpts from La bohème.
In January 1998, Hei-Kyung Hong presented her sold-out New York recital debut at Alice Tully Hall. That same year, Ms. Hong 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. Ms. Hong appears frequently on television: in 2001, an international television audience of over one billion people saw her perform live in Korea on the occasion of the FIFA World Cup Drawing Ceremony, and in the summer of 1995, she traveled to Korea for a series of recitals and concerts celebrating the 50th anniversary of Korea’s independence, including a televised gala concert in the Seoul Olympic Stadium, and two concerts of arias and duets with Plácido Domingo, a recording of which was released on compact disc, laser disc, and video on the Nices label.
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 and Walter Legge, and Gerard Souzay. She was one of four young American singers invited to attend Herbert von Karajan’s opera classes at the 1983 Salzburg Festival. 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. Her stature transcends the world of classical music: in 1991 she received the Governor’s Asian-American Heritage Month Award from then-Governor Mario Cuomo of New York, in recognition of her exemplary dedication to the highest personal, professional, and community values and standards of excellence; and in 2007 the Blanton-Peale Institute presented her with the Norman Vincent Peale Award for Positive Thinking, given to those who clearly and inspirationally exemplify the power of thinking positively, with faith, deep caring for people, and dedicated commitment to improving our world. Ms. Hong resides with her family in New York.