At top of opera, Yoncheva worries about classical music

Dec 29, 2022, 7:46 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 10:40 am
This image provided by Met Opera shows Sonya Yoncheva as Fedora, left, and Piotr Beczala as Loris I...

This image provided by Met Opera shows Sonya Yoncheva as Fedora, left, and Piotr Beczala as Loris Ipanoff in Giordano's "Fedora." (Ken Howard/Met Opera via AP)

(Ken Howard/Met Opera via AP)

              This image provided by Met Opera shows Rosa Feola as Olga, left, and Lucas Meachem as De Siriex in Giordano's "Fedora." (Ken Howard/Met Opera via AP)
            
              This image provided by Met Opera shows Sonya Yoncheva in the title role of Giordano's "Fedora." (Ken Howard/Met Opera via AP)
            
              This image provided by Met Opera shows Sonya Yoncheva as Fedora, left, and Piotr Beczala as Loris Ipanoff in Giordano's "Fedora." (Ken Howard/Met Opera via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — Sonya Yoncheva, a soprano at the top of her profession, worries about classical music.

“My son, if I ask him, he always says, ‘I want to be like Ronaldo.’ And later, if I ask my girl, she will say, ‘I want to be Lady Gaga and Beyonce,'” the Bulgarian singer explained ahead of Saturday’s new production premiere of Giordano’s “Fedora” at the Metropolitan Opera. “They really don’t associate with the classical music artists. Times are changing.”

In a bid to shape projects and bolster opera’s audience, Yoncheva is launching her own record label.

A Sony Classical artist since 2013, Yoncheva is releasing “The Courtesan” on her own SY11 Productions label, recorded with conductor Marco Armiliato, tenor Charles Castronovo and Italy’s Orchestra dell’Opera Carlo Felice Genova. It will launch on Amazon on Feb. 9.

In a time of dwindling classical sales and releases, she was able to choose the selections and even the cover photo, matters subject to a collaboration on Sony recordings.

“I never really had the chance to guide my project from first step to the last step,” she said. “They were always a very good team with me, but I never felt free.”

In the first close-to-normal season since the pandemic’s onset, Yoncheva sings a revival of Bellini’s “Norma” at the Met starting Feb. 28, then has role debuts as Maddalena di Coigny in Giordano’s “Andrea Chénier” at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala on May 3 and Cio-Cio-San in Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” at the Vienna State Opera on June 23.

“She is one of our most important artists,” Met general manager Peter Gelb said. “She’s a wonderful actress and a great singer. She is the kind of the artist that the Met needs more than ever these days as we try to make opera more appealing to a broader audience. It’s extremely challenging because the core opera audience is much smaller than it once was.”

Born in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, on Christmas Day 1981, Yoncheva attended William Christie’s “Jardin des Voix” in 2007 and moved to Switzerland to enroll at the Conservatoire de Musique de Genève.

“I wanted to come to the States, but I never managed to have a scholarship,” she said. “At the time, a salary of a normal Bulgarian person was $60 per month, so when you compare this to what has to be paid in a university in the States, it’s just insanely expensive, so for this reason I had to chose Europe. Someone gave me a little envelope with the name of the high school in Geneva, and this person told me ‘You should go there,’ and I said OK.”

In 2010, she became the first woman to win Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition, and she went on to debuts at the Met and Royal Opera (2013), Vienna State Opera (2014), Milan’s Teatro alla Scala and Paris (2017).

Yoncheva starred in Claus Guth’s 2017 Paris production of Puccini’s “La Bohème,” infamously relocated to a space shuttle.

“This was such a nightmare,” she said, laughing, “but many people are still talking about it.”

She has become more discerning with directors.

“Maybe they will have a concept, OK, but I want them to believe in that and to be honest with it and to explain to me why,” she said. “I must believe in it, and sometimes what is happening is that themselves, they don’t believe it and then they do it to provoke.”

David McVicar is directing “Fedora” in his 13th Met production — a future staging of Ponchielli’s “La Gioconda” is planned — in a fairly traditional mounting. Yoncheva made her role debut at La Scala on Oct. 15 in a modern-dress production directed by Mario Martone, and she worried about being heard.

“The stage director decided to leave the whole stage empty. Me and Roberto Alagna, we were struggling the whole night to find the Punto Callas, Punto Caballé, Punto Tebaldi, Punto I don’t know whom,” Yoncheva said, referring to the so-called preferred stage spots of Maria Callas, Montserrat Caballé and Renata Tebaldi decades earlier.

“I finished the production and I said ‘Oh, my God! What am I going to do at the Met?’ because the Met is maybe three times bigger than La Scala,” Yoncheva said. “I immediately called David, I said, ‘Please tell me there are some walls.’ And he said yes. He showed me pictures, and I was reassured.”

Her male lead at the Met is tenor Piotr Beczala. They have worked together for a decade.

“Our voices our pretty similar,” Beczala said. “I am coming from the lyric corner and she’s coming from the lyric corner, arriving now for a little more spinto repertory.”

While the Met dropped plans to present Yoncheva in John Corigliano’s “The Ghosts of Versailles” and “Madama Butterfly,” she has committed to a new production of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball)” and revivals of Tchaikovsky’s “Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades)” and Cherubini’s “Medea” in Italian.

She lives outside Geneva with her husband, conductor Domingo Hindoyan, whom she met in school. They are kept busy by 8-year-old son Mateo and 3-year-old daughter Sofia, with the entire family traveling to New York for her extended stay.

Yoncheva’s daughter looks at her career somewhat differently than the opera audience.

“I ask her what daddy does and she starts to conduct,” Yoncheva said. “And then I ask her what mommy does, and she says, ‘Oh, mommy, she’s Elsa from ‘Frozen” — because I’m dressed like a princess and I sing.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - A Leopard 1 tank drives in Storkau, Germany, on May 19, 2000. Ukraine may be able to add old...
Associated Press

Ukraine may also get old Leopard 1 tanks from German stocks

BERLIN (AP) — Ukraine may be able to add old Leopard 1 battle tanks from German defense industry stocks to deliveries of modern tanks that Berlin and other governments pledged last week to counter Russian forces in the war. German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit confirmed Friday that “export authorization has been granted” but declined to […]
1 day ago
FILE - President Barack Obama, left, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sign the New START treat...
Associated Press

NATO urges Russia to respect nuclear pact with the US

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO called Friday on Russia to respect the only treaty it has with the United States aimed at keeping a lid on nuclear weapons expansion and urged Moscow to allow on-the-ground inspections of military sites to resume. The so-called New START Treaty was signed by Russia and the U.S. in 2010. It […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

UK man admits treason over crossbow plot against queen

LONDON (AP) — A man who was arrested on the grounds of Windsor Castle with a loaded crossbow pleaded guilty to treason on Friday for planning to attack Queen Elizabeth II. Jaswant Singh Chail, 21, admitted to a charge under the Treason Act of intending to “injure the person of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Reports: 8 migrants’ bodies recovered by Italian coast guard

MILAN (AP) — The bodies of eight migrants have been recovered by Italy’s coast guard during an operation overnight that also rescued 42 survivors in the central Mediterranean off the island of Lampedusa, Italian news agency ANSA reported Friday. The coast guard in Rome and in Lampedusa declined to immediately confirm details of the rescue, […]
1 day ago
Ice coats trees at an Austin, Texas, home, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. A storm knocked out power for a...
Associated Press

Texas power woes linger as Arctic air heads for New England

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — As rising temperatures offered some hope for frustrated Texans shivering in their homes days after losing power in a deadly winter storm, another wave of frigid weather was taking aim Friday at the northern U.S. An Arctic cold front was expected to move from Canada into the northern Plains and Upper […]
1 day ago
FILE - A vender waits for customers at a vegetable market place in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, June...
Associated Press

China confirms offer to Sri Lanka of debt moratorium

BEIJING (AP) — China’s government on Friday confirmed it is offering Sri Lanka a two-year moratorium on loan repayments as the Indian Ocean island nation struggles to restructure $51 billion in foreign debt that pushed it into a financial crisis. China lent to Sri Lanka as part of Beijing’s multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative to […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
At top of opera, Yoncheva worries about classical music