Tenor Im Tae-kyung, 31, is one of the local music world`s biggest crossover successes, having brought his classical vocals into the realm of mainstream popularity.His rival Lim Hyung-joo, a 19-year-old tenor, had been indisputably the biggest star of the genre until Im joined the competition last year and became widely loved for his clear, tenor voice and masculine vocals that are warm but dynamic and charismatic.
"My voice belongs to the light tenor category, while in the lower key, it is closer to that of baritone, which I have to give up if I want to be a classical tenor,`` Im said during an interview with The Korea Herald on Wednesday. "Of course I don`t want to. To me crossover music is very natural and comfortable.``
In a sense, Im`s life itself has been a "crossover.`` Born in Seoul, Im went to high school in Switzerland and college (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) in the United States. During the college years, he majored in production engineering and minored in voice. "I`m full of curiosity and just can`t stand it when the curiosity cannot be quenched,`` Im continued.
Im was set to work with Honda Group after graduating from the college, but he changed his mind and quit to study music at Boston University, so that, as he said, he would not have any regrets. At the school, Im was taught by tenor Richard Cassilly, who fully recognized Im`s potential. The professor, however, died of a sudden heart attack, while Im was attending the school.
"I was so depressed after the professor passed away, that I did not sing for a while. For the first time in my life, I began to think about why I had been born in the world, and why I had to continue singing.`` The answer came to him when he participated in a charity concert organized by the school`s Korean students` council, which was meant to help young pediatric cancer and leukemia patients. "I was glad to know that my voice could be a great comfort to those who are in trouble, and the knowledge has sustained me since," Im said.
Early last month, First Lady Gwon Yang-suk invited Im to the Blue House, along with other top-notch musicians of the country, and he sang in front of people who had overcome cancer. The concert was aired on KBS, and moved nationwide viewers. "It definitely was one of the top five stages I`ve ever come up with,`` the crossover singer said.
Currently, Im is working on another crossover experiment, which fuses his superb singing ability with acting through a musical drama.
This autumn, Im will play a lead character in an original, local musical titled "The Sword of Fire`` at the Haeoreum Theater of the National Theater of Korea, which is based on female cartoonist Kim Hye-rin`s mega-popular epic cartoon with the same title.
"The musical stage is something that I have always yearned for, although I`ve never performed on one,`` said Im, who, accordingly, was deeply touched by popular actor Cho Seung-woo`s charismatic voice and acting in the local musical version of "Jekyll and Hyde,`` last year.
"I think what matters the most in acting is being natural. Just like in music, I want to be a singer who communicates a good story faithfully, and hope that I can do the same thing on the musical stage.`` In the upcoming musical, Im will play Asa, an ancient Siberian warrier, who seek the love of beautiful Ara who is played by Lee So-jung, who is best known for her role of Kim in "Miss Saigon`` on Broadway.
Im said he would do his best not to hurt the reputation of the original cartoon. "Being strong and passionate is the stimulus. I want to be a singer who reveals touching emotions steadily, little by little." The musical will play September 19 through October 23 at Haeoureum Theater of the National Theater of Korea near Dongguk University station on subway line 3. Tickets are 50,000 won to 120,000 won. For more information call (02) 333-4693.