Congratulations to Eun Sun Kim for becoming the first Asian woman to lead a major North American opera company. Kim is a conductor from South Korea who made an impressive debut in June leading Dvorak’s “Rusalka” for the San Francisco Opera, reports Datebook. She has now been named the San Francisco Opera’s next music director.
The 39-year-old will take over the position in August of 2021 at the War Memorial Opera House. This position has been empty since Nicola Luisotti left at the end of the 2017-18 season.
“From my first moments with the San Francisco Opera, I felt like part of the family,” Kim told The Chronicle. “The whole organization is super professional, but I also saw a lot of love and passion for the music. For me, it felt very natural to be here.”
Eun Sun Kim will only be the fourth music director in the company’s near 100-year history. She has signed a five-year contract that calls for her to conduct four operatic productions a season, conduct concerts, and participate in the executive leadership of the organization.
The only limitation Kim has is that she will only perform operas she knows the language of. Fortunately, she knows six languages.
Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea where she began training as a pianist. She turned to composing because she found her piano performances to anxiety-inducing. By the age of 24, she moved to Germany to study. Since then, she’s moved around Europe to hone her craft.
She made her first appearance in the United States just two years ago at the Houston Grand Opera. She conducted Verdi’s “La Traviata” which led to her being the company’s principal guest conductor.
“I never felt on podium that I was treated differently,” Kim said when asked about being an Asian woman in a white-male-dominated field. “If there was resistance, it would only have been about musical interpretations.”
The San Francisco Opera house Matthew Shilvock had nothing but praise for Kim. “There were two things that we saw early on,” he said. “One was her clear vision and sense of artistic purpose. But at the same time, there’s a welcoming generosity that happens with the orchestra and the singers, a message that says, ‘I want you to do your best, and I’m here to facilitate that.'”