Korea and the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition

In 1937 Belgian music-lover queen Elisabeth set up the first Queen Elisabeth Music Competition. Since the beginning it was devoted to violin, the year after that pianists could participate and nowadays it rotates every year for violin, piano and singing. At the same time, a composing composition is held, of which the winning piece has to be played by all participants. The competition is considered one of the most prestigious and difficult around the world.


This year, the competition was dedicated to voice. It is held in the opera house “De Munt” in Brussels and even the royal family attends the concerts. A renowned jury (this year with Teresa Berganza and José van Dam!) is appointed to choose a winner. I was surprised to find out that among the finalist there were 4 South Korean singers: Sumi Hwang (soprano), Hyesang Park (soprano), Seung Jick Kim (tenor) and Hansung Yoo (baritone). This night, Sumi Hwang was crowned first place in the competition – and she totally deserves it. What a voice and technique!

This is Sumi Hwang in her favorite role of Mimi (La Bohème – Puccini) during the semi-finals:

The impressive finals with orchestra you can watch here.

Up till now South Korea has had 4 winners in the competition (2 for singing, 2 for competition). To compare: there are as many Belgian winners and that’s one more than Japan. It seems that there are quite a lot excellent opera singers in Korea – the world-famous Sumi Joo for example. Could it be that South Koreans are more fond of classical (European) music like opera than other Asian countries are or am I mistaken?


3 thoughts on “Korea and the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition

  1. Pingback: 韓國和伊麗莎白女王音樂大賽| nippaku | YING

  2. About Asian countries being fond of European classical music: don’t forget about Suzuki Masaaki (鈴木雅明), conductor of some of the best Bach (and Händel) recordings in existence.

    For some possible answers to the question “How did 30-odd mostly Japanese singers and musicians a world away from Germany deliver what many believe is the greatest-ever interpretation of this cornerstone of the Western canon?”, take a look at

    • I know Japanese people are very fond of Beethoven’s 9th symphony (the “daiku”, for it is a tradition to perform it on masse on New Year. Ohga Norio, invented the CD with a capacity of 74 minutes so it would be able to contain the entire recording of the 9th symphony. I am familiar with the work of Japanese conductors like Ozawa Seiji and Michiyoshi Inoue. Thanks for adding Suzuki Masaaki to this list!

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