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Opera singer loves musicals

Jan 29,2007
Being 1.85 meters (6 feet) tall and having a deep low voice, Park Sang-gin is an impressive man. He becomes even more so when he plays a tango singer with a mustache singing face to face with Eva Peron in the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical “Evita.” Playing Magaldi, the singer who brought the ambitious girl out of rural Argentina, Mr. Park is making his debut in Korea.
Born in Busan in 1974, Mr. Park began studying singing and a variety of musical instruments when he was a child, influenced by his mother, who studied opera singing at college.
Mr. Park studied opera singing as an undergraduate and for his graduate studies at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, where the alumni include Dave Grusin, Herbie Hancock, Harry Connick Jr. Angela Bofill, Donald Byrd, Ron Carter, David Amram and Angelo Badalamenti. After graduation, he decided his heart belonged to musicals and so he switched away from opera. In 2006, he landed a small role in an off-Broadway show, “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” in Boston, starring as Bunfoo. After discovering there were auditions for “Evita” in Korea, he sent a videotape of his Boston performance and he was chosen for the role.
Explaining why he preferred to perform in musicals, he said, “Musicals are more up-to-date than opera and the development of the story is less conventional. Opera is heavy and constrained by historical time frames. There is more room for characters in a musical to express their individuality.”
Mr. Park said there are considerable differences between singing musical and opera scores. “When singing opera, the voice needs to come from deep down and you must have deeper breathing and bigger resonance, but musical songs are often high-pitched, dynamic and more technical,” he said.
The character Magaldi appears at the beginning of the musical but disappears from the stage in the first act, never to appear again. Mr. Park sings and dances in the ensemble later in the show.
Musical critic Cho Young-shin said Mr. Park is well trained in operatic singing and has physical features that appeal to the audience, but he lacks experience, especially in acting.
“Mr. Park has strong potential but he was obviously short of qualities in Magaldi, with both acting and singing,” Mr. Cho said. “He needs to build up more acting experience if he wants to make a career out of musicals.”
Mr. Park also acknowledged that he needed to improve his acting. “My friend told me that my acting should have more impact. He said I needed to look slicker playing Magaldi or more miserable when I was abandoned by Eva,” he said.
Asked whether he intends to go back to Broadway, he said, “I want be more established here. I want to play as many roles as possible. No matter how small or big they are it gives me an opportunity to immerse myself and learn different characters.”
Comparing Korean musical actors to their Broadway equivalents, he said, “Korean actors are on par with those acting on Broadway, with their singing and dancing. Korean actors are very expressive and good at demonstrating different, less conspicuous emotions.”
However, he said, there are few Korean actors performing in Broadway. “Unless you are in a musical like ‘Miss Saigon,’ in which there are many Asian characters, it is difficult for Asian actors to appear in Broadway musicals,” he said.

By Limb Jae-un Staff Writer [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]