For today’s k-music time capsule we’re featuring another powerful ballad from a drama OST; ‘If I leave’ by legendary soprano Jo Sumi.
Jo Sumi is actually an opera singer, and a world-renowned one at that. The woman is literally an opera legend. She was the world’s first artist to perform the unedited original version of Strauss’ ‘Aria of Zerbinetta’. Apparently, the composer edited the original piece because he expected it would not be possible for a human to sing. Short of a hundred years later, Jo Sumi proved that assumption to be incorrect. And that’s just one of her many achievements throughout her career.
She has recorded precious few non-opera songs, mainly as OST contributions. This is the one that stands out the most, as style-wise it’s the furthest from her operatic performances.
If I leave
The song served as the ending theme of 2001 sageuk drama ‘Empress Myeongseong‘. The drama is also known as ‘The Lost Empire‘. With 124 episodes, audiences had plenty of time to fall in love with this incredible ballad – and commit it to memory. ‘If I leave‘ is considered a veritable classic at this point.
Evidence of this, but also the most likely connection to the song for fans outside Korea, was its cameo in 2011 series ‘Heartstrings‘. Remember that super intense moment when
that seemingly random hot dude Lee Hyun-Jin just sort of hijacked the gayageum audition performance and started singing, and we all swooned? If you’ve watched the drama I don’t doubt you do, if not, see the link ;). Well, after searching high and low (so, roughly about 15 minutes on YouTube) for the song name, it turned out to be ‘If I leave”.
The lyrics seem to lament Myeongseong’s tragic lot in life while also depicting her strong resolve to live and face anything the world throws at her.
“If there is someone who will remember me after I’m gone,
I wish they would say that I loved everything, including the sadness”.
It’s such a beautiful song, and Jo Sumi’s performance makes the charged lyrics even more impactful. Take a deep breath and enjoy:
Bonus: there’s this great cover by Eunji that took me by all kinds of surprise.