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VOCAL EDUCATION IN SPAIN. INTERVIEW WITH SONIA DE MUNCK. María Dolores Castellón Pérez

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Abstract

In our research on musical training and specifically on vocal training in Spain we have had the opportunity to interview Sonia de Munck, Soprano. In this interview we will see how good training is essential to succeed. The support received by your teachers and a good working environment facilitates learning. We will also see how access to professional life is necessary for more complete learning. In short, it reveals the secrets of this profession.
VOCAL EDUCATION IN SPAIN. INTERVIEW WITH SONIA DE MUNCK.
María Dolores Castellón Pérez
Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid. Spain. Escuela Internacional de Doctorado.
ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4208-2118
Abstract
In our research on musical training and specifically on vocal training in Spain we have had the
opportunity to interview Sonia de Munck, Soprano. In this interview we will see how good
training is essential to succeed. The support received by your teachers and a good working
environment facilitates learning. We will also see how access to professional life is necessary for
more complete learning. In short, it reveals the secrets of this profession.
Key words: Sonia de Munck, soprano, vocal training, learning, success.
Many young people and children want to be singers but sometimes we only see the results and
successes of a few who, with a lot of effort and dedication, manage to get to the great concert
halls and theaters in our country and outside of it. An example of this fight to succeed in a very
demanding and demanding world is the singer Sonia de Munck
1
.
Madrid soprano Sonia de Munck studied with María Dolores Travesedo and Miguel Zanetti at the
Escuela Superior de Canto in Madrid, obtaining the Lola Rodríguez Aragón End of Career Award.
She has received master classes from Victoria de los Ángeles, Dolora Zajick, Istvan Cserjan,
Wolfram Rieger, Enza Ferrari, Janine Reiss and Alberto Zedda, and has been awarded in the
Ciudad de Logroño and Pedro Lavirgen singing competitions.
She has performed in the main Spanish theaters, where he has sung operas by Mozart, Donizetti,
Bellini, Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, Músorgski, Lehár, Johann Strauss, Britten and Montsalvatge, as
well as zarzuelas by Sorozábal, Vives, Nieto and Giménez, Asenjo Barbieri , Arrieta and Chapí. In
the oratory field, he has performed works by Vivaldi, Bach, Pergolesi, Haydn, Mozart, Orff and
García Abril. She has also offered numerous recitals accompanied by pianists such as Miguel
Zanetti, Fernando Turina or Aurelio Viribay. In the field of contemporary music, he has
collaborated with the Trío Arbós and has sung operas by Leonardo Balada.
She has worked under the musical direction of Jesús López-Cobos, José Ramón Encinar, Miguel
Roa, Miquel Ortega, Karel Mark Chichon, Antonino Fogliani, Jorge Rubio, José Miguel Pérez Sierra
and Álvaro Alviach, and with stage directors such as Lluís Pasqual, Gustavo Tambascio, Emilio
Sagi, Luis Olmos, Ignacio García, Ian Judge, Patrick Mailler and Tomás Muñoz. With Pablo Heras-
Casado he recorded the zarzuela La Clementina de Boccherini.
Recently, she has sung Marina by Emilio Arrieta at the Teatro de la Zarzuela, directed by Cristóbal
Soler and Óliver Díaz, and the Lettere Amorose by Domenico Scarlatti at the Italian Institute of
Culture in Madrid, under the direction of Alan Curtis. (De Munk, Sonia. 2020)
1
De Munck, Sonia. Orquesta barroca de Sevilla. Biografía. [Online]
http://www.orquestabarrocadesevilla.com/orquesta/artistas-colaboradores/solistas/cantantes/de-
munck-sonia-soprano/ [Accessed January 6, 2020]
This interview was conducted on October 4, 2019 at the home of Sonia de Munck who so kindly
opened the doors of her house to let us in and interview her.
[Loli] Today we have the opportunity to meet Sonia de Munck who is a singer at the Teatro de
la Zarzuela
2
. And tell us, Sonia: Where have you lived? What has been your origin? How did
you get to music? A little about you ...
[Sonia]I have always lived in Madrid. I am from a Madrid mother and a Belgian father. And we
have always lived in Madrid. My father was a great fan and he directed corals. Then I began to
sing in one of the choirs that I directed in Tres Cantos (Madrid). And little by little I got to know
people who could help me get back on track with the facet that I liked that was singing.
I started studying at Tres Cantos at the Municipal School of Music
3
. And after that I took the
entrance exams to the Superior School of Singing
4
. And I started the career, first with Celia
Langa
5
, then with Vicente Cabo and finally with María Dolores Travesedo
6
, who it was through
whom I met Julio Robles
7
.
Have you always lived in Madrid or because of your work have you had to move?
Yes, I travel for my work, but I have always had my domicile in Madrid.
What is your job currently?
I started at the Superior School of Singing. And first I started singing in the Choir of the Teatro
Real. But from that stage on, I was able to start playing roles as a soloist and I have continued
ever since. I work as a freelancer and where they need me there I go. I work with an agency of
singers and as soon as there is something the theaters have thought of me for there I go.
So you're not a resident singer of the Teatro Real
8
, excuse me, of the Teatro de la Zarzuela
exclusively?
No no no no no. I have had the immense luck to debut at the Teatro de la Zarzuela, I think I
remember in 2004 with two works by Leonardo Balada
9
, Hangman, Hangman! And The Town
of Greed. And from there, they were directed by Gustavo Tambascio
10
and José María Encinar,
and then from there I began to have direct contact with the Teatro de la Zarzuela and practically
every season I have performed there since then. There are many titles that I have had the
2
Teatro de la Zarzuela. [Online] http://teatrodelazarzuela.mcu.es/en/ [Accessed January 6, 2020]
3
Escuela Municipal de Música de Tres Cantos. Madrid [Online]
https://www.trescantos.es/web/corporacion/itemlist/category/44-escuela-municipal-de-m%C3%BAsica
[Accessed January 6, 2020]
4
Escuela Superior de Canto de Madrid. [Online] http://escm.es/ [Accessed January 6, 2020]
5
Langa, Celia. Webdiccionario. Biografía. [Online] https://lazarzuela.webcindario.com/BIO/langa.htm
[Accessed January 6, 2020]
6
Travesedo, María Dolores. Madrid, villa y corte. Biografía [On line]
http://www.madridvillaycorte.es/maria-dolores-travesedo.php [Accessed January 6, 2020]
7
Robles García, Julio. Biografía. [Online] http://julioroblesmusico.blogspot.com/p/biografia.html
[Accessed January 6, 2020]
8
Teatro Real. [Online] https://www.teatroreal.es/es [Accessed January 6, 2020]
9
Balada, Leonardo. Biografía. [Online] https://www.andrew.cmu.edu/user/balada/index.htm [Accessed
January 6, 2020]
10
Tambascio, Gustavo. Biografía. [Online] http://www.gustavotambascio.com/biografia/ [Accessed
January 6, 2020]
immense luck to do there. But I have also worked at the Lyceum, I have worked at the Teatro
Real, at the Teatro de la Maestranza
11
. There have been several theaters that I frequent.
You have told me that you were in the María Dolores Travesedo Company. How long were you
with them for? How was that
The truth is that it was a wonderful experience. First, because all the things he did were very
supervised by María Dolores Travesedo. So in terms of technique, as she provided me with such
a solid support, she allowed me to later, when doing the different roles, always be the most
suitable for my voice and she was in the whole process of creating the character. That is very
positive especially when you start. It also allowed me to contact the public. This was
simultaneously combined with the Escuela Superior de Canto. And it is true that there are
opportunities to sing at school and be in contact with the public, but this was one more step,
because it was on a professional level. I was surrounded by professionals who are very used to
singing in theaters and who had experiences that transmitted to you. These types of companies
also allowed the young person to learn with all the experiences that your colleagues could
transmit to you, and that is a treasure and that was wonderful.
Where did you work with the company? Here in Madrid?
Yes, in the Cultural Center of the Villa. I remember making a Rigoletto
12
with them. We also
made anthologies of the Zarzuela. We made complete Zarzuelas, in different provinces of Spain.
You were traveling and with many illusions, many illusions. Because also when you start because
you want to do everything very well and every time a new role arrives it is a challenge. And they
took great care of us. They took great care that they were the ideal roles and I tell you, in each
part of the process María Dolores was very pending and in the end for us it was very enriching.
How many of you were in the company?
Well, I don't remember that. I can not tell you. Because I'm going to tell you a number and it
won't be. Because others depended on the work that was done. It also depended on the
characteristics that were needed for the orchestra, on the characteristics that were needed for
the choir. It is true that there were colleagues that you met regularly. And then if a more
nurtured, denser or greater choir orchestra was needed, well… It depended on the performance
and the work.
In all that coming and going of the company. What role did Julio Robles play within the
company?
I met Julio Robles before I even had any participation in the company. I met him because he was
the repertorist when we were going to work with María Dolores Travesedo. There were classes
that we gave only with María Dolores. But she considered it necessary to hear the full roles.
When a recital was approaching or when we had an important commitment, those classes were
even more necessary. So we had Julio's help as a repeater, as a pianist. And we could adjust the
works both technically and musically.
What year is this season about?
11
Teatro de la Maestranza. [Online] https://www.teatrodelamaestranza.es/ [Accessed January 6, 2020]
12
Rigoletto. Melómano digital. “Rigoletto de Giuseppe Verdi. [Online]
https://www.melomanodigital.com/rigoletto-giuseppe-verdi/ [Accessed January 6, 2020]
Well, I think I remember that it is around the year 2000. Maybe 1999 or 2000 is when I meet
Julio.
How long was Julio with you in the company?
Well, I was working with him for around 4 or 5 years, I think I remember.
And how was your relationship with Julio? Was it direct or indirect? Very close or distant?
In classes where there are three people, everything is always very close. What I do remember is
that Julio was especially shy at first. And he was a tremendously ductile person. As for us carrying
a repertoire and one day we did one thing and another day we made a concert song, another
day we did an opera, other times zarzuela when we went to classes. And he was very ductile
because immediately you were wearing something at first sight, there was no problem. That
was fantastic with him.
But didn't he correct your technique? Did he just pass repertoire?
No. The person who was correcting the technique was María Dolores. He made some notes at
some point in a passage. If at any time there was a problem with rhythm or tuning, he did make
his notes. But the person in charge of suggesting how to correct it was María Dolores.
Are there any anecdotes that you remember from rehearsals or from that time?
Well, I remember once that I had to sing at the wedding of some friends of María Dolores. And
she couldn't go and then she said to me: you care that they are friends and such. There was a
Bach lied that I couldn't find ... The very serious tessitura was too serious and the very acute was
too acute ... And then I remember that I said that this is not how I'm going to do it. And Julio
appeared to me with the score transcribed by himself. And I thought it was such a beautiful
thing. Because it takes a long time, or at least it would take me a long time. I know that an
accustomed person does it in less time. But finding the moment and doing it because sometimes
it is a bit lazy. He appeared to me with the score… And I still have it. Because friends of mine
soprano ask me because it is an ideal tessitura, neither too sharp nor too serious. And I have it
saved because it was a very nice gift. It involved all that time of doing it.
Do you remember some other colleagues from that time?
That they were in singing class, I always went with my husband Cesar Gutiérrez
13
, who is a tenor.
And that we went first one and then another. One saw the class of the other. Above all, in the
beginning you learn a lot from seeing the class of other classmates and seeing how they correct
them. And I remember going with him, especially. There were more colleagues, like Gloria
Casero, who is now a conservatory teacher. And then so many singers passed by in the company
that they are now active. Well I remember Antonio Lagar
14
, of course, that I keep a memory of
a love ... Because he was a person who always behaved with us so well, so well, with so much
love that we have a memory ... A fantastic person, who so much for me as for my husband María
Dolores and he were props in that first moment.
13
Gutiérrez, Cesar. Biografía. [Online] http://www.cesaraugusto.at/ingles/biografia.php#lectura
[Accessed January 6, 2020]
14
Lagar, Antonio. Diario lírico. “El barítono madrileño Antonio Lagar fallece en un accidente de tráfico”. .
[Online] http://diarioliricoes.blogspot.com/2018/06/el-baritono-madrileno-antonio-lagar.html
[Accessed January 6, 2020]
Is there anything else in particular that you want to tell us about that time?
Throughout the race one has to be like a blank page many times to receive what they give you.
And I remember that time, a time of maximum illusion and in which everything they told you
was absorbed like a sponge. Both the teachings of María Dolores Travesedo and Julio Robles.
That sometimes the work of the person who is a repertoire or accompanying pianist, in
ensemble classes I mean, seems more secondary but it is not. The work they do is very
important. And I always remind him of the word of encouragement, of encouragement, that you
believed you were capable of doing things. That there are people with great wisdom that what
they do is make you feel little by their side. And Julio no, Julio was the opposite. He was a person
who encouraged you and encouraged you to think that your limits were not what you believed,
but that you could handle things. And that at that moment is vital, it is fundamental, and he did
that very well.
I think thats enough. Unless you remember something else?
Look, I'm thinking about the colleagues we work with. There are so many, I remember Ernesto
Grisales
15
, Nuria Lamas
16
, Carmen Aparicio
17
, they are many, but I'm sure I will remember tonight
and write you an email.
Well you can write me an email or a WahtsApp or whatever you want ...
It was a very, very nice working time.
The beginnings are always a bit between doubt, effort and not knowing what the future holds
for you. It is that uncertainty that when you feel well supported, or at least comfortable, I
think it is easier. Having a pianist who is in the group, rowing in the same direction as everyone
is always appreciated.
Yes, because at that time we are at certain very vulnerable times. You need people who are
holding you and giving you a sense of security. And you hold on to that and with the work well
focused and if you are in good hands everything is easier.
I remember once we gave a concert at Conde Duque
18
that you could only sing one song. It
was a concert by several people who go there to the rehearsal booths. So they did a concert
with all of us. And we were not happy with the performance and Julio said to me: -Loli go again
and tell him if you can repeat, if you can sing another song. And it gave me so much cut.
Because everything is so organized, each one has their time to act ... Doing an improvisation
for their program is not the same ... And Julio: - Yes, you see, you see that as you are young
they will listen to you ... AND I said, well, come on. And yes, they let us repeat. It was great
because that little push that sometimes you say ah! Yes, I have done well, ok I am satisfied.
15
Grisales, Ernesto. Fundación Juan March. Biografía[Online]
https://www.march.es/musica/publicaciones/buscadormusica/ficha.aspx?p0=4&p5=5748 [Accessed
January 6, 2020]
16
Lamas, Nuria. Diario lírico. “El Foment Mataroní ofrece la gala `Tres tenores, tres divas´ en su XI Ciclo
de Zarzuela”. [Online] http://diarioliricoes.blogspot.com/2015/09/el-foment-mataroni-ofrece-la-gala-
tres.html [Accessed January 6, 2020]
17
Aparicio, Carmen. Ópera World. “Carmen Aparicio. Soprano”. [Online]
https://www.operaworld.es/carmen-aparicio-soprano/ [Accessed January 6, 2020]
18
Conde Duque. Madrid. [Online] https://www.condeduquemadrid.es/ [Accessed January 6, 2020]
But if there is a person who is telling you try a little more. That little push sometimes makes
the difference between staying where you are or moving on.
Depending on the personality of each one. When I started all of this I was an extremely shy
person. And they would tell me anything and I would turn red. I do remember conversations in
that sense, that shyness is useless in this life. And then you have to try to think that shyness is
not synonymous with good education. That sometimes we confuse it, we are too cautious. They
have taught us not to bother ... And there are certain moments in life when it cannot be, because
you miss it. Maybe not to bother and be too empathetic and put yourself in the other's place
that maybe says: - Oh, I'm going to have to listen again. And no, maybe you're doing the wrong
reading and they just want to hear something else from you again. I too was overly shy at first.
And I still am, but it is something to be forgotten.
It doesn't mean that you go everywhere like this. But sometimes you have to say: come on I'm
going a little more.
If you are not too cautious sometimes. It is something that I tell myself every morning that it
should not be done.
Thank you very much, Sonia.
You are welcome. Loli a pleasure.
Same to you!
That everything go very well.
Conclusions
After the conversation with Sonia de Munck we can conclude that the vocal training in Spain has
as its starting point the general musical training in the Music Schools that carry out important
work as a first step towards what comes next. Later the continuous vocal formation in the
Conservatory or in the Superior School of Music. But it is of great importance to have access to
the professional field to finish your profession as a singer. Sonia tells us about the great work
carried out by the María Dolores Travesedo Company and its accompanying pianist, Julio Robles
García. Both form a perfect tandem for the support and training of new singers. And once the
training is over, experiences and challenges come with each production. Being in an agency and
knowing the works perfectly are the key to improving yourself day by day and reaping the more
successes the better. Thank you Sonia for all your valuable advice.
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