Above : baritone Jose Carbo, who performed solos and duets throughout the programme.                                                                                                                                    Featured image: Sumi Jo.

The chance to hear or view any of international vocal sensation Sumi Jo’s many award-winning recordings is always a thrill. The opportunity to see this soprano live complete with a stunning range of dresses and her seasoned acting skill intact is a pure entertainment  delight.

Sumi Jo illustrated her tremendous range, singing in five languages throughout the concert, and presented arias from her coloratura repertoire alongside Korean  classical songs, a Baroque vocal piece by Purcell and duets from  operetta as well as a wonderfully characterised performance with baritone Jose Carbo  of Gershwin’s ‘Bess, you is my woman now’.

Guy Noble provided very full and sympathetic accompaniment at the piano throughout, as well as some signature commentary in his inimitably engaging velvety tones.                                          

The madness of love from the concert title was conveyed clearly through the choice of some excellent coloratura arias. The bright acoustic of the City Recital Hall keenly transported Sumi Jo’s hard working and multi-faceted instrument to us . Just when we thought the emotional intensity in the arias about love’s sweet challenges had peaked in the programme and so had the excursions into the high register, we were again treated to further anguish and  vocal pyrotechnics from the soprano stratosphere.

Sumi Jo is a magician of the coloratura timbral palette, constantly altering the shape and gleam of notes and sending them on their way with a great diversity of nuance and attack. Her interpretation of the bitter-sweet ‘Spiel ich die Unschuld vom Lande’ from Die Fledermaus was a smorgasbord of such sonic effect and vocal control.

At the end of the programme we were treated to no less that the mad scene from Bellini’s I Puritani, where once again we hung on many carefully crafted notes and enjoyed Sumi Jo’s virtuosic swoop of emotional growth and excellent phrasing as she led us firmly to the dramatic and musical climax of the aria at hand.

Jose Carbo  was consistently moving with fine emotional performances. His strength of character-painting was very much matched to the diva he shared the stage with .  Beginning with an impressive ‘Largo al Factotum’ from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Carbo’s qualities as a singer of precision, humour and technical facility were communicated to us from this early stage in the concert.

Along with such obvious technical accomplishment, Carbo continued to dazzle us with mini emotional journeys which were always finely wrought in his selections. Especially penetrating was Sorozabal’s ‘Non Puede Ser’ and from the opera DieTote Stadt by Korngold we were introduced to a potential new favourite baritone moment via much beauty of tone in  the aria ‘My yearning, my obsession…’

Above: Guy Noble, who accompanied the entire concert.

The combined stage presence of Sumi Jo and Jose Carbo and the consistently colourful accompaniment from Guy Noble made for some inspired duet moments with well blended voices and believable acting.

The switch to operetta in ‘Love Unspoken’ from The Merry Widow and also the stylistic jump to the moment from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess were  as effortless as they were exquisitely rendered versions of vocal classics from the singers and pianist.

The high level entertainment, comedy and beauty of tone continued through the several encores offered. Sumi Jo’s talents several shone here.  Alongside Guy Noble singing from the piano in cat-character tone came the well-known party piece “Duetto Buffo di due gatti”by Rossini. Both artists demonstrated their superb comic timing and dramatic flairs par excellence during this fun choice.

To further crown the entertainment as stunning in its variety, Sumi Jo  accompanied herself for one song at the piano. Guy Noble assisted her as accompanist once more as she delivered a golden-voiced version of Puccini’s much loved  ‘O mio babbino caro’.

The audience floated away from this successful concert on something of a coloratura cloud with a  bold baritone lining. The crowd was not only ‘Mad for Love’ but also now renewed and crazy-happy fans of all featured performers.