Sonya Argiro: Musical theater is closely related to opera

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The musical education of the opera singer Sonya Argiro starts in Plovdiv (Bulgaria), where she graduates from the Music School. Her education continued at the Music Academy in Sofia (Bulgaria), and after graduation she continued her studies in the USA.

Over the years, the opera has won many international awards for opera singing and has been in the master classes of world-famous opera singers like Maria Chiara, Vivica Genaux, Gena Dimitrova, Raina Kabaivanska and others.

Ms. Argiro's varied repertoire includes works by Handel, Mozart, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Rahmaninov, Bizet, Delibes, Gounod, Masenet, Rimski- Korsakov, J. Strauss, R. Strauss, Schuber, Schumann, Verdi, Menotti and Bernstein. Currently Sonia Argiro lives in New York and works with Mr. Valentin Peychinov, who is founder and artistic director of vocal productions New York.

Hello! We are honored that you decided to take us a little of your time to talk. The standard question is "When did you decide to dedicate yourself to opera art?"

I honestly didn’t choose opera on my own, I knew nothing about opera when I started singing as a child. My father took me to solfeggio lessons and there, one day, as I was singing my solfeggio exercises the teacher told me I should sing opera, because I have operatic voice. I guess she told my father too, because he took me to a voice teacher who taught opera singing, and she told me I have potential, and that’s how it all started.

What or who has the most impact on your professional career?

Besides my parents who always backed me up and helped me as much as they could, most influential people in my carrier so far were maestro Maurizio Arena, with whom I had the pleasure of studying in Italy in 2009 and who changed my Fach (i.e. my voice type-from coloratura soprano to lyrico-spinto soprano) and that changed my entire perspective about my future, the roles I saw myself in etc. Also my current teacher Valentin Peytchinov, he is the one who helped me so much when it comes to technique and the taming of my big voice.

Do you think the Opera World has changed? For good or bad?

The world of Opera has definitely changed since the time I started singing, and perhaps way before that. Opera is too complicated for this world were everything tends to be so simplified. Everything is spoon fed to people and made to be “dummy proof”. Opera is a complex art that needs studying and practice and a lot of patience. Understanding and loving it, takes time. People now-a-days prefer something simple and easy to understand right of the bat, something that doesn’t require too much thinking is easily accepted and loved. Therefore the Opera is struggling, because fewer people want to try and understand the complexity of this art form. And that’s definitely for the worst.

Why did you choose to develop in the United States?

It was Germany or USA for me, I had friends/colleagues in both places, who were willing to help me with applications at schools were they were attending. But my friend in NYC was insisting that I must go there, that it will be great for my future and that’s why I went to study further in NYC. I took a leap of faith. Plus getting visa was very easy for me, I never hit any problems, ever! Which in itself is perhaps a sign I was meant to be in NYC.

What is the American opera scene different from the others?

In US (especially in NY) there are many small opera companies where you can get to sing and gain practice and learn roles, which is fundamental, because no one will hire you if you have never sung on stage, especially with orchestra. The rest is the same, a stage is a stage, no matter where it is.

According to your experience, how important is the image today in the World of Opera?

We live in a world were instagram and social media rule. So the image you create for yourself is what makes it or brakes it. Not only in The Opera world but everywhere. So I’d say- extremely important.

How do you prepare for a new role?

Well, great question, because I just got the sheet music for Faust (Gounod), I’ll be singing Marguerite this fall (November) and I’m learning the role now. I read everything thru (it’s in French) I translate everything and then when I am comfortable with the language I learn the music. Getting comfortable with the words and knowing what they mean, makes it easier to learn and to remember the role. At least that does it for me.

What is your favorite role?

My favorite... I believe I will be singing it in spring 2019. Leonora from Il Trovatore (Verdi). I’m very excited and I can’t wait!

What role would you like to play?

I’d love to do Lady Macbeth (Verdi’s Macbeth), ... maybe one day..

Do you have a special ritual before going out on stage?

I actually don’t. I just get very quiet and I concentrate and I try to get deep into character.

Do you prefer traditional or modern opera performances?

Traditional, most definitely. But I’m willing to perhaps try something contemporary, I like a challenge.

What do you think of the musical productions being put on Broadway?

Some are pretty good, great singers and great acting. I also like the dancing, the costumes... most recently I saw “Cats”, but when I saw the music coming from a computer and a keyboard I rolled my eyes, haha..

Do you have favorite musicals that you enjoy watching over and over again?

Not many, but I do like the classics, The Sound of Music, Cats, Westside Story etc.

Can you make a parallel between serious opera and musicals for Broadway?

Well, they are connected. Musical theater is closely related to opera. Some works by Gershwin, Bernstein, Sondheim have been made into both “musical theater” and “operatic” productions. Also some older operettas or light operas (like “The Pirates of Penzance” by Gilbert and Sullivan) have been produced in modern adaptations that treat them as musicals. For some works, production styles are almost as important as the work's musical or dramatic content in defining into which art form the piece falls. Sondheim said, "I really think that when something plays Broadway it's a musical, and when it plays in an opera house it's opera. That's it. It's the terrain, the countryside, the expectations of the audience that make it one thing or another."

Would you have participated in a Broadway musical production and if yes, which musical would you like to participate in?

I don’t think I will ever be casted to sing on Broadway, my style of singing is different and my voice is very big. On Broadway they have tiny microphone taped to the singers forehead, in opera stages our mics are far away. Guess why..

If you were not an opera singer, what would you do?

Design, I love interior design. I actually do that sometime, I help out friends or friends of friends. I’m really good at making dull places look pretty and glamorous.

How do you combine your numerous commitments with your personal life?

It’s very difficult. Dating in NYC is like “mission impossible” you have to jump from planes and cliffs to get to meet someone, haha.. it might be just the world we live in. Everyone is busy doing so many things.

Where do you like to relax?

The spa is my sanctuary. I just love to mull things over in the jacuzzi or the sauna. There’s nothing like it.

Do you return to Bulgaria regularly?

Yes, ones a year. Usually the summer of Christmas time.

What's next?

Well, for now, I have a few concerts coming up, “Faust” in the fall of 2018, a competition in December 2018. But anything could come up in the meantime. You never know :-)

Thank you for your time.

You’re very welcome and good luck to you in all your future endeavors.