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Soprano pulls double duty at Desert Song Fest

Soprano pulls double duty at Desert Song Fest

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Hye Jung Lee is pulling double-duty at the third annual Tucson Desert Song Festival.

On Friday, she stepped in to replace the soprano Heidi Grant Murphy in the Tucson Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Poulenc’s “Gloria” and Strauss’s “Der Rosenkavalier.”

“I performed Sophie in ‘Rosenkavalier’ when I was doing my artist diploma (at) Indiana University in 2012,” the Korean soprano said in an email interview on Thursday. But she had never performed the Poulenc.

“I was a little bit worried because Poulenc's ‘Gloria’ was new to me and I had to learn it in a short amount of time,” she said. “Now it makes me very happy as I am going to sing this beautiful music.”

This is the first time Hye Jung has performed in Tucson. She joins the Tucson Chamber Artists this weekend for three performances of the chamber version of Carl Orff’s choral masterpiece “Carmina Burana,” which she also has never sung before.

We caught up with her to chat about her Tucson appearances.

ADS: You're pulling double-duty for the festival. Were you surprised when they called and asked if you could sub in for the TSO?

Hye Jung: “Indeed, I was very surprised and felt so honored to be a part of the TSO.”

ADS: You are off to a spectacular start to a career that by all indications will put you in the upper echelon of American sopranos. What has been the most exciting role/experience to date?

Hye Juug: “My opportunity to sing Madame Mao in ‘Nixon in China’ at the San Francisco Opera in 2012 was probably the most exciting event (that) happened in my career. In that year, I just graduated from the school in May and got to sing the role in the production of one of the largest opera houses in the United States. It was one of the greatest gifts in my life and I am still grateful when I think about that experience.”

ADS: Describe the experience of doing choral events like "Carmina Burana" as opposed to opera roles.

Hye Jung: “It's so great in its way as it's very much like a ritual whether it's sacred or secular. It feels like I get to be a part of some kind of community, bigger than myself, rather than just playing my character as in opera (although the characters in opera are also in their environment). Also, because there's no scenery as in opera, I feel I am encouraged to purely enjoy the music.”

ADS: You've made a name for yourself in the role of Olympia in "The Tales of Hoffman" and  Madame Mao in "Nixon in China." Do you see those roles as being or becoming signatures for you?

Hye Jung: “I think it's too soon to say they're my signature roles because I only got to perform them once. I would definitely like to sing those roles again and find out more about the characters when I have the opportunities.”

ADS: What sort of touristy things are on your agenda during your Tucson stay?

Hye Jung: “When I have some free time in between the performances, I would like to visit museum or wild animal zoo. To be honest, I am just happy to get out from New York and its freezing weather.”

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