Bangs, gowns and Sumi Jo

Tenor Paul Dominique Galvez. Photo by Elizabeth Lolarga.

Tenor Paul Dominique Galvez, guest artist at Sumi Jo’s one-night concert “The Divine Diva” on Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. at the Meralco Theater, has a hobby of imitating soprano voices and uploading his videos of these in YouTube.

A schoolmate at the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music told him to try copying Ms. Jo’s voice because they had the same timbre. He downloaded all her videos and sang her arias in his YouTube channel “xxxTenorxxx.” His parodies caught the Korean lyric coloratura’s attention when he double tagged her in Twitter. This was in the years 2006-07 when he practiced “sympathetic vibrations.”

“I wanted her attention,” he said. “Lo and behold! The next day, a friend of Sumi Jo mentioned me in his Facebook account while Ms. Sumi shared my video in Twitter and also FB. She added me as her FB friend.”

What he termed as their “grand eyeball” happened at the press conference during the opera superstar’s first Manila visit in February 2014 to raise funds for the survivors of super-typhoon Yolanda.

Galvez said, “My first impression of her? She’s an alpha female in her simply cut tailored dress. A voice was screaming inside of me as she spoke. Later, she asked, ‘Are you Paul?’ And she was the one who insisted that we hug.”

He said the laws of attraction and affirmation were at work in their meeting. UST Prof. Najib Ismail, who is Ms. Jo’s collaborating artist in the February event, knew how Galvez worshipped the Korean diva and gave him a souvenir program from a concert in Russia. As the young man prepared for his junior recital at UST, he always kept that program within eye range.

Sumi Jo sporting a short hair.

He brought it with him when he joined Ms. Jo’s post-2014 concert dinner at Café Ysabel for her to autograph. He recalled, “I liked the whole package of Sumi Jo, except that she’s single. She’s the total manifestation of my dream as an artist from her hair—her bangs are her staple—down to her shoes. She’s not a capricious diva in today’s negative connotation of the word.”

He admired how she was able to make the Korean masses learn to love classical music. “She has that power, that command. She’s a courageous singer to be able to sing in a big open-air arena.Maybe her closest equivalent in the Philippines is Lea Salonga who’s able to bridge Broadway and pop and attract the masses.”

Galvez recalled Ms. Jo telling him, “If you find my voice special, it’s because I spent time working on this instrument.” He added, “Maybe that’s why she couldn’t entertain suitors. As a child and young girl, she had to study ballet and piano, eight hours of piano a day. She tells interviewers, ‘My mother prepared me for this life.’”

Sumi Jo’s mother is a music lover and frustrated opera singer. The mother, a Dame Joan Sutherland fan, was pregnant with Sumi when she’d listen to the Australian soprano’s voice for two hours at least a day. And a star was born.

Galvez also praised Ms. Jo for her nationalism. A lot of couturiers in the international scene are falling all over themselves to dress her up, but she returns at least twice a year to Korea to visit family and get the gowns she ordered.

At 54 years old, Ms. Jo is still capable of what he called “publicity stunts” to get a new generation of music listeners to like the classically trained voice. Galvez cited her, pixie haircut, her choice of young pianists to accompany her in her world tour or to team up with K-pop stars to do duets. “She adjusts to the changing times; that’s why her jazz albums and takes on Broadway songs are okay.”

He won’t be nervous when he sings Donizetti’s “Quanto e bella, quanto e cara for lesir l’amour.” He’s got a friend cheering for him in the wings.

For tickets to “Sumi Jo: The Divine Diva,” call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or the Cultural Arts Events Organizers at tel. nos. 7827164, 09183473027 or 09209540053.


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