It sounds like a cliche, but for Koreans, Japan is a country that is close yet distant. And an opportunity to present what we have to them through a performance is meaningful in itself. "It is an opportunity that was hard to pass", said Im Tae-kyeong, the lead actor of the musical version of the all-time Korean hit TV drama "Winter Sonata
", which will start its month-long performance in Tokyo from tomorrow.
Another reason this crossover tenor decided to participate in this show is related with its premiere in Sapporo, Japan. When it was unveiled earlier this year, Im had a hard time personally.
"I couldn't stop coughing before the first performance and it just wouldn't stop, and I barely made it through the presentation", recalled Im.
At first, he thought it was a cold but it went on for two months, although he constantly went to see doctors. "What made me nervous was that I am a 'stage person' and even when I had a cold, everything was fine when I went on a stage", he said. Later, when he got back in Seoul, he was introduced an expert in respiratory diseases and found out that his whole immune system was down, and his vocal organs were reacting to the tiniest irritations.
"I guess having been part of two major productions in a row has taken its toll on me", said Im who starred in last year's big-budget musical "Sword of Fire", an adaptation of an epic cartoon by Kim Hye-rin.
Following the much-hyped musical, Im took another daring step to assume the role that was originally played by Bae Yong-joon
The musical was well received in Japan although he is the first to admit his lack of experience in acting. "And as it was close to a preview, the whole performance was kind of immature", Im said in an interview with The Korea Herald.
He was disheartened at first with a relatively lukewarm audience, or what he thought was lukewarm. "Japanese are different in terms of expressing their feelings. I was not satisfied with my performance, so maybe I was being self-conscious, but after a while I realized that they were applauding quietly even after all our orchestra members had left their seats".
When the producers of "Sword of Fire" approached him, Im took a leap of faith (after two and a half months of persuasion) despite his lack of acting skills.
"But only when I actually started did I learn how hard acting was, as you have to be honest and true to sensibility, and at the same time calculate certain techniques to communicate that feeling to the audience", he said.
It is both an exciting yet challenging task, and the singer acknowledges that his perspective of acting has widened. But he declined to label himself as a musical actor. "I have been interested in this genre, but I am a singer, and I am just trying to do my best now", said Im.
As he said earlier, Im considers himself a natural when it comes to being on the stage. He has sung in front of an audience since he was four, winning countless contests and performing in festivals and concerts, and shared a stage with soprano Sumi Jo
He majored in vocal music since junior high school, and he released an album "Sentimental Journey" in 2004, which topped classic music charts in Korea. Im has also participated in original soundtracks for television dramas such as "Prince of the Legend" ("Jumong
Im, however, simply describes himself as "a singer who is happy when he sings". "I want my songs to have a certain message or feeling, and hope I can deliver them to whoever is listening", he said.
"When put into words, these sound grand, or complex, but at the end of the day, when a gentleman or a lady with a life of experience, and no knowledge of music, happens to listen to my song and nods, saying that 'hey, this lad has a good voice', then that says it all for me", said Im.
By Hwang You-mee