[Herald Interview] Journey to find her voice has brought Vittoria Yeo to peak performance

When Ji-won Yeo took to the stage in the title role for Bellini's opera "Norma" on Oct. 26, she might have been nervous. After all, despite performing just about every major role possible overseas, it was the 43-year-old's first lead role in her motherland.

But the South Korean soprano, better known overseas as Vittoria Yeo, proved why she has been only taking main roles since her debut despite some doubts earlier in her career.

When she decided to go study abroad in 2005, it wasn't for the usual reasons.

Her peers and even teachers questioned her: “You? Why?"

Most singers who venture overseas have already established themselves in Korea, and head out to seek new opportunities elsewhere. But all Yeo wanted to do was find her voice.

“I would sing loudly with all my might but it didn't sound like my voice. It felt like I was trapped somewhere. All I wanted to do was to discover my true voice. If I quit without understanding my voice, I knew I would regret it,” she said.

Yeo said performing a strong character like Norma gives her a sense of catharsis. Contrary to her charismatic appearance, she describes herself as an introvert who sees better things in other people than herself and these aspects of her personality can make her timid.

At the Istituto Musicale Pareggiato “Vecchi-Tonelli” in Modena, she met her teacher, Raina Kabaivanskam, who saw something special in this timid Korean girl and reminded her student to have confidence.

“Because I wasn’t that great, even small progress seemed visible to me and that made me excited and kept going,” she said.