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Fri, Feb 20, 2009
The Korea Herald/ANN
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'Miss Saigon' star sings to Chopin
by Koh Young-aah

Musical singer Lee So-jung is one of the few native Koreans to achieve success in the American musical industry.

Lee is the first Korean musical actress to take the leading role in a Broadway musical. Lee played Kim in "Miss Saigon," one of the world's most popular Broadway musicals, in the late '90s.

Although "Miss Saigon" made her a star, musical actress was not exactly what Lee had thought of as her dream job.

"I tried out for the part of Kim and got the role right away. It was the first audition I went to in the States," said Lee in an interview last week.

Some of Lee's career highlights in the past 10 years include being the voice of Mulan in Korean-dubbed Disney animation, which led to her starring as Jasmine in the Broadway musical "Aladdin." At home, Lee has appeared in such musicals as "Dracula" and "Sword of Fire."

Yet Lee has been also steadily holding solo concerts because she prefers being herself, rather than a fictional character in a show.

And this is why the singer has been making moves to shift her focus to becoming a vocalist.

"I found out that only through letting go of musicals can I concentrate more on holding larger-scale concerts," said Lee, adding she no longer plans to do musicals.

Lee's new album, "Chopin and the Girl," is one of the fruits of her efforts to pursue her own music. The album consists of songs based on Frederic Chopin's works, most of which were written by Lee.

Growing up playing the piano, Lee has been a longtime classical music fan.

"Chopin has been my favorite classical composer since I was a kid. And I think we have a lot in common since we both spent a lot of time outside our native countries missing home," said Lee.

"My primary goal was to change the original pieces as little as possible," said Lee.

Despite the relatively little melody changes, the songs sound contemporary, almost jazzy, with Lee's rich and low sounds. One will find the melodies familiar but be surprised to find out that the songs were based on Chopin's works, the singer added.

Notable among the songs is "Chopin and the Girl," a song that Lee dedicated to the late composer. The lyrics tell Lee's story of admiring Chopin as a girl and are set to Chopin's piano etudes.

"Evocation," meanwhile, sets legendary Korean poet Kim So-wal's work "Chohon (evocation)" to Chopin's piano sonata "Funeral March."

Lee, who struggled with setting words to the work, thought of "Chohon" and found out that the two pieces went so well together, not to mention their themes.

"It was as if they had been waiting to be put together by me," Lee said.

Lee is multi-talented. Apart from her performing career, she has worked as a radio DJ as well as published a book called "The Sound Dream" (2007), which depicted Lee's success story on Broadway.

Yet the vocalist stressed that she wanted to just keep going with her singing career, recording and holding concerts.

"I know what I want. I desire to do music that is easy to listen to and that I like - close to jazz maybe, but not rock or reggae," said Lee.

Lee is set to start a tour performing work from her new album in August. Details are to be announced later.

To find out more about Lee, go to her website,

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