This is an interview with Opera singer Noh Hee-sub, who has achieved the world's first 1,000th opera busking.
Q1. On September 24, 2022, you achieved the world's first 1,000th opera busking. How did you feel?
A: I was so overwhelmed as if I have given myself an amazing prize that has passed 1,000 performances. As a matter of fact, I was wondering whether I would be able to do more than 100 performances on the first stage with unpleasant environmental condition around the streets and the weather conditions, particularly fine dust but I finally completed it.
Q2. You call yourself 'GeoSung (거성)' . What does it mean?
A: Yes, if you just listen to it in passing, you may think it means a big star in Chinese characters, but it actually means an Opera singer on the street. (Geo is from '거리', whichi means Street in korean, Sung is from '성악가', whichi means an Opera singer in korean)
I like being called a tenor or baritone singer but I prefer to be called an Opera Singer on the street.
Q3. When did you start performing street opera and where do you usually do it?
A: I started in Myeongdong on July 19, 2013, and I have performed in places like Itaewon, Sinchon, Hongdae in Seoul and all over the country.
I performed not only in big cities, but also relatively isolated areas or islands such as Suncheon, Wando, Sinan-- gun, Yeongdeok, etc which are located far from Seoul.
Q4. There must have been a lot of foreigners in Itaewon or Myeongdong, how was the audience’ s response?
A: Unlike in Europe, Koreans do not have the chance to see opera on the street. As for the foreigners, I observed that they were amazed to see classical busking in Korea, and I have been impressed by their enthusiastic compliments and response.
Since they are more expressive of their feeling than Koreans, If I have to compare, I would say foreign audience have more active response to the performers.
Q5. Have you done busking overseas?
A: Yes, after the 300th performance in Korea, I went on an European busking tour with my fans and sponsors to promote my music.
Even in Europe, It was not easy to see opera singers busking, so the audience went crazy everywhere I performed as if I was a boy band , and there were even some people who cried when I sang opera Arias.
Through that experience with great audience I always gain strength to sing on the street over and over again.
Q6. Any memorable street performance?
A: During the Itaewon performance, a young woman requested a song called "On a Wonderful Day in October" to be sung for her, when I started to sing, she became emotional and shed tears throughout the song. She sent a gratitude letter by e-mail.
‘When I heard your song in Itaewon, I was about to divorce my husband. but I needed to changed my mind after listening to your song.’
She revealed that it was her wedding song which vocalized her happiness and hope for her marriage.
Q7. What was the driving force behind the 1,000th street performance?
A: It's because I believe in the beautiful influence of music on people which may change the outlook of their life from despair to hope, from displeasure to pleasure after listening to my song.
Q8. I was told you worked as permanent member of the Seoul Opera Company of the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts after studying in Italy. What made you perform on the streets after that ?
A: The performance on the stage seemed to benefit only a limited number of people, So I needed to detour to find out the ways for more people to enjoy such performances. I believe it was my mission and vision so I moved my performance from the stage with walls to the street in order to be the foundation for expanding the classical music and popularizing classical music through street performances.
Q9. What is your plan for the future?
A: I will continue to perform till I get to 2,000 sessions for the fans and sponsors who always give me support and encouragement.
And also as the director of the 980-seat Sky Art Hall in Deungchon-dong, Gangseo-gu, I have planned to create it as a mecca of performances in Gangseo – gu district area.