Susanna Kwon (Kwon Soo-Jung), a soprano, took her degree at the Seoul Music University and since 1995 has lived in Italy where she has come to maturity with C. Castellani, R. O. Malaspina, N. Palacios, R. Kabaivanska and G. Scalchi. The winner of international competitions, continually busy on the concert platform, she has made recordings for the Dynamic and Philharmonia studios.
In 2001 she made her debut on the opera stage. In 2002 she was inter alia the guest of the opera gala A Rose for Genoa and received a scholarship together with the compliments of the mythical tenor, Franco Corelli. Subsequently she has filled many roles in the Italian and German repertoire in productions by some of the principal Italian operatic companies.
In 2007 she founded the cultural association “GeKo” which brings together Korean residents of Liguria. In 2009 she coordinated the festival “Korea – the land of the tranquil morning” in collaboration with the Spinola foundation and the Consul General of the Republic of Korea in Milan.
Susanna Kwon lives in Genoa with her husband, the pianist and music critic Giorgio De Martino, and their son.
To listen to the Korean love song Perhaps you’ll come by the voice of Susanna Kwon, with piano accompaniment by her husband, click here below.
Susanna Kwon has lent her voice to Francesca da Rimini and read the relevant verses (Inf., V, 88-142) in the translation into Korean by Chung Noh-Young. She read the verses while she was by the seashore, so that the sound of waves can be heard in the background, as if Francesca were speaking from her birthplace «upon that shore to which the Po descends / with all his followers, in search of peace» (verses 98-99, transl. George Byron).
To listen to this reading click here below:
In order to read the verses in Korean while you are listening to the reading, click here and operate the audio file from the text page.
In order to read the Korean verses in Latin transcription while you are listening to the reading, click here and operate the audio file from the text page.
Private biographical hints on Susanna Kwon written by herself
I was born on the other side of the world; I was born in Seoul, a little after midnight. When she saw me my mother was immediately worried: my head was covered with a dense layer of very fine, fair hair, and Mummy thought that it was her fault because, when I was growing in her belly, she had eaten too much spicy food. During her pregnancy she was unable to hold anything she swallowed down unless it was covered in chilli pepper paste.
When I opened my eyes, I too carried the mark of Taeghanmin-guk in the concavity of my back: for me, too, Samshin-halmoni, the ghostly grandmother who is responsible for new lives, had come down from the sky. According to legend, it is she who grabs the child’s feet in order to drag it out of the mother’s womb, hold it upside down and smack it to start it breathing. The baby cries and starts to live. Those smacks which remind those who are born that it is necessary to breathe (and cry) leave a trace, the mark of us who descend from Mongol roots, a blue spot, as blue as a bruise. A signature which fades during the first years of life. The trace of the dong-I (of the “archers” as the Saracens called us), the trace of the ghost Samshin-halmoni, a sign of belonging.
I was born late. So late that my mother, in order to give birth, had to go into hospital. After the nine months were up I remained curled up for another 15 days in her belly: I did not want to come out and they had to bring me on.
My sign, in Korea, is that of the pig. And a pig, at midnight, after fattening himself up the whole day long, sleeps. A fact that foretells a quiet life: the pig is a good sign which brings good luck because it is a symbol of plenty; while those who are born under the sign of the cow and, worse still, in the morning or the afternoon (thus during the workday), will feel the weight of duty all their life. When I was born my country was trying with difficulty to emerge from poverty. Everyone worked very hard but for the majority the quality of life, equally, was anything but good… To be born under the sign of the pig and, better still, after midnight, was regarded as great good luck: a life of ease and little effort.
This evening, by the light of the moon, I saw the two white rabbits once again. For a long time, years perhaps, I had paid no attention to them. They are the two white rabbits which worked the rice paste, beating it with wooden batons. The moon, who knows why, wanted to stop them, luminous, phosphorescent, their outlines the colour of ice… The upraised sticks which seemed to be loading up in order to strike more strongly in the act of work and the aroma of a party and the home.
They are the white rabbits which prepare the ttòk: split rice which becomes a sweet and elastic paste. Simple ttòk wreathed in the ambiguous aroma of soya powder, or the more elaborate one with a heart of sesame or honey or chestnut paste.
I look at the moon and the figures which hide it… I look today as I used to do then, on the other side of the world. And for no reason I am astonished and emotional at seeing them here, motionless beyond the curtains, beyond the springboard of the balcony, as they prepare to strike.
Trained by necessity to use my imagination, those rabbits have been amongst my dearest puppets during the whole of my difficult childhood in the other life, and seeing them again now sparks a strange languor in my memory. To the extent that I suddenly found myself singing, without words, the Song of the moon and its two white rabbits. Because in Korea everything has its song. The dawn, the night, the moon, the sun, the clouds, the flowers, the sweets… Everything has a song for it. The whole of life can be put to music and have its sound track made up of a thousand leitmotifs which we learn as children.
I recall a day in November when my mother was threading pine nuts onto a needle and we were climbing up onto the roof of the house, burning it before the orb of the moon in order to make the dreams come true which we were uttering under our breath. Not to the sun, not to the stars: it is to the moon that we Koreans direct our biggest requests for favours. I still do it despite looking at the moon from the other side of the world.
The aforesaid Song of the moon and its two white rabbits, also known as The Half-moon, is a folksong written in 1924 by Ghiuk Young Yun. At that time Korea was under Japanese rule. The song is rich in metaphors bound to nostalgia for freedom and homeland. To listen to it by Susanna Kwon’s voice click here below: