Eun Sun Kim
Text: Luc Joosten | Photo: Kim Tae-Hwan

‘That first moment when everyone draws a collective breath’

21 March 2022

An interview with conductor Eun Sun Kim.

Culture and classical music played a central role in Eun Sun Kim’s upbringing in South Korea, but she first developed an interest in conducting while studying piano and composition. She now regularly conducts in opera houses across the world, having joined the ranks of today’s leading conductors. Hailed as a ‘major star’ by The New York Times, it comes as no surprise that the San Francisco Opera has appointed her as its new music director.

Eun Sun Kim will be making her Amsterdam debut with Verdi’s Requiem. She has visited the city several times in the past when studying in Stuttgart and loved it. She is delighted to be making her Dutch debut as conductor and is looking forward to bringing Verdi’s score to life.

Verdi is a composer that has been pivotal to your career. What does it mean to you to be able to conduct his Requiem?
“For me, it’s about that first moment when everyone draws a collective breath of anticipation for what’s about to unfold – before even a single note of the score has been played. This epitomises Verdi for me! I hope to be able to create more of these memorable moments with all the musicians and artists working on this project.”

“I have of course worked on plenty of opera productions before that have featured dancers, but this will be my first time conducting the Requiem for the stage. It will be an exciting new experience for me and I’m looking forward to fulfilling this challenge together with the creative team.”

‘Each one of us is completely free in terms of how a work speaks to our imagination and mind. Art gives us this freedom.’

What does freedom in the arts and music mean to you?
“Freedom is integral to any interpretation of music. The score serves as a guide, helping the conductor understand the composer’s intentions. It is essential that the conductor follow the composer in this regard. But the musicians, circumstances and mood change with each performance. Rehearsing or performing a work is a joint effort and this too determines how a piece is interpreted, which explains why it is slightly different each time. I go into rehearsals feeling confident about my interpretation of the score, but I still want to be flexible so that the musicians and I can explore what we are trying to say together.

But, when performing, it is important to remember each audience member will relate to the piece in their own way. We may all be sharing the same space physically, but each one of us is completely free in terms of how a work speaks to our imagination and mind. Art gives us this freedom.


Eun Sun Kim

The South Korean conductor Eun Sun Kim studied in Stuttgart and had her breakthrough in North America. Since the start of the 2021/22 season, she has been the music director of San Francisco Opera.

  • Messa da Requiem will run from February 9 to 25 at Dutch National Opera & Ballet.