Park Hye-sang, the first Asian soprano to be signed by Deutsche Grammophon, on Friday released her second album, a project that has engaged her for more than two years.
Park learned free diving for the album jacket -- she took photos underwater, symbolizing the theme of "breath." She also went on a pilgrimage to Santiago, Spain last year, walking every day for 25 days.
"There wasn't a single day that I did not think about this album in the last 2 1/2 years. The album includes somewhat complex songs instead of a list of popular songs and songs that sell," she said.
The message she wanted to deliver through this album that came out four years after her debut album “I’m Hera” is “embrace your life while you live.”
The album includes 25 tracks ranging from classics by Rossini, Verdi, Massenet and more to recent works by contemporary composers Cecilia Livingston and Luke Howard, Cecilia Livingston and Bernat Vivancos.
Park, also known as Hera Park, cited the lyrics of the Seikilos epitaph, one of the oldest surviving examples of a complete musical composition, dated to around the first or second century -- “While you live, since. Have no grief at all.” This gave her the courage to delve deeper into the meaning of death while she was grappling with a sense of helplessness that came with the sudden loss of loved ones, as well as inspiration for her album.
The Seikilos epitaph reminded her of “Hymn,” by contemporary composer Luke Howard, Park said. With inspiration, she commissioned a rearranged work titled "While You Live," incorporating the Seikilos epitaph into Howard's existing composition.
She has also included Korean composer Woo Hyo-won’s “Requiem Aeternam (Eoi Gari).”
“There's something about singing Korean songs or wearing hanbok (Korean traditional clothing) that inexplicably empowers me,” Park said. “Yesterday, a friend of mine picked this Korean piece as their favorite and wondered about the instrument that was used. I said it's ajaeng. I'm glad I can pique some interest in Korean music.”
Ajaeng is a Korean traditional string instrument.
Park will perform more Korean art songs and even gugak music for the upcoming recital on Feb. 13 at Lotte Concert Hall.
Park, who frequently travels abroad for concerts, recitals and operas, has ended her nomadic life of 7 years and has found a place she can call home in South Korea.
“I used to believe that home is in the heart, but eventually, I heeded my mother's advice," she said. "Even though my time spent at home is only about 3 months a year, having an actual home and my own bed is surprisingly comfortable."