Bass-baritone Samuel Youn to sing for hope in Seoul later this month

October 13, 2023

Acclaimed bass-baritone Samuel Youn is set to hold a concert in Seoul later this month, marking the 25th anniversary of his international debut.

The concert’s title “From Darkness to Light” symbolizes how the bass-baritone has grown into one of the world’s most lauded operatic singers over the past two decades.

“I had endured through the darkness for many years without any hope of making it as a musician. I wasn’t even sure if I had the potential for music,” Youn said at a press conference in Seoul on Friday.

Possessing a bass’s thick voice with the ability to reach a tenor’s high vocal range, Youn is also famous for his charismatic, immersive performance with dramatic facial expressions and body poses that operagoers are compelled to watch.

The photo provided by the Mapo Culture Foundation shows bass-baritone Samuel Youn. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)
The photo provided by the Mapo Culture Foundation shows bass-baritone Samuel Youn. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

After graduating from Seoul National University in 1994, the 51-year-old moved to Europe to study at the Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi in Milan, Italy, and the Musikhochschule Koeln in Germany.

He struggled due to language difficulties and self-doubt as a vocalist, he said.

Youn’s first international recognition came in 1998, when he won Italy’s Toti Dal Monte competition for opera singers. The next year, he moved to Germany, where he eventually became a lifetime member of the Cologne Opera.

His ascent to international recognition and acclaim came after he was tapped to play the title role of Wagner’s “Der Fliegende Hollander,” or “The Flying Dutchman,” at the Bayreuth Festival as a replacement for Evgeny Nikitin, only four days before the festival’s opening.

Nikitin stepped down after a video reportedly showed he had a tattoo resembling a Nazi swastika.

Since his breakout performance, Youn has become a regular guest at the festival, dedicated to celebrated German composer Richard Wagner, later earning the nickname of a Wagner specialist.

Last year, he was given the title of Kammersanger, a German honorific title reserved for the most distinguished singers of opera and classical music.

Since last year, he’s been teaching vocal music at Seoul National University, his alma mater.

“I had only one reason in mind when I moved back to South Korea, which is living a more meaningful life” by serving in the community and paying back what he thought he had received from society.

Alongside the teaching job, he said he will continue to share his passion for classical music with others through opera concerts.

His concert, slated for Oct. 29 at Seoul Arts Center, is composed of popular opera arias for bass-baritone, including “What Power Art Thou” from the opera “King Arthur.”