South Korean Conductor Becomes First Asian Woman to Lead San Francisco Opera

Korean conductor

South Korean conductor Eun Sun Kim is set to become the first Asian woman to lead a renowned North American opera company.

San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock named Kim as the opera company’s music director on Thursday, according to the official press release.

“From my very first moments at San Francisco Opera, I felt this was home,” Kim said in a statement. “There was an unusual feeling of open collaboration across so many facets of the Company-a real sense of professional alchemy. I’m deeply honored to be joining the San Francisco Opera family and helping to carry this incredible lineage forward. “

Kim, who will be the fourth music director in the history of the San Francisco Opera, is set to take over the role in August 2021. She will be replacing Nicola Luisotti who vacated the position at the end of the 2017-2018 season.

Her appointment comes after an inclusive search process led by Shilvock and managing director: artistic, Gregory Henkel, in which “feedback was invited and shared from all parts of the organization.”

In the meantime, Kim will be taking on the role of music director designate effective immediately, which will have her participating in the planning of future seasons and in orchestral auditions. Kim is also set to conduct the new production of Beethoven’s Fidelio which will be a part of the opening weekend of the 2020–2021 Season.

In her new role, she will be conducting up to four operatic productions each season, conducting concerts at the War Memorial Opera House and participating in executive leadership of the organization.

Originally from Seoul, Kim moved to Germany at age 24 to study more about conducting. After earning a doctorate in Stuttgart, she then relocated to Berlin. She spent two years as an apprentice at the Teatro Real in Madrid before proceeding to conduct widely throughout Europe from her home base in Vienna for about 15 years.

Kim made her U.S. operatic debut just two years ago, in which she led Verdi’s “La Traviata” at the Houston Grand Opera. In June, she made her SF Opera debut, leading Dvorák’s “Rusalka” to rave reviews.

“Eun Sun Kim brings a unique energy to the Company,” Shilvock shared. “She connects all of us — audiences, artists, technicians, administrators — in the pursuit of one singular artistic journey, bringing thoughtful leadership, deep compassion, and an incredible respect for everyone in the theater.”

“She leads with great vision on the podium but also welcomes each and every person into the creative process, inviting them to do their very best work. The resulting art is spectacular. This community can look forward to a future of extraordinary music-making that connects deeply to the core of what it means to be human.”

Feature image via eskconductor

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