Interview with Carmen
Belém, August 20, 2006.
Translation by Mercia Cosac/Sonja
“Carmen Monarcha away from the spotlights”
The soprano speaks about her love for Belém and also about her
“ I love the water, I love the sea. I love everything that will remind me of how small we really
are. Nature does that, for instance suddenly, there is a tsunami, and everybody in it's way is
You can be the richest, the most famous person in the world but nothing will protect you
against something like that, you can not avoid that type of disaster. You would just drown,
since the waves are much more powerful than you are.”
Those are her words, she speaks with such an uncommon clarity and simplicity for the current
It reflects the personal character of this woman, who last week, was, possibly, the most
requested person in the city of Belém. The popularity, however, is no novelty in her life.
In Europe, where she lived for the last five years, she has many fans, and in some countries
she is recognized in the streets.
We are speaking about the soprano, Carmen Monarcha, the soprano, born in Belém, who has
taken the local audience to the ninth cloud with her performance as 'IARA', the main character
of the opera with the same name.
The presentation of 'IARA' has opened the schedule of the fifth Opera Festival of the Theatre
Before Carmen has completed her 26th year, she already has of an enviable track record: she
was the winner of the singing contest “Irmãos Nobre” – Brothers Nobre – at the age of only 19;
she has won the “Bidu Sayão” contest, and than, has been invited to perform her first opera.
In 2002, she performed in the opera 'The Merry Widow, by Lehar
A few months later she moved to Holland, where she studied
at the music academy of Maastricht, and she joined Andre
Rieu's Johann Strauss Orchestra. First in the choir, later as a
soloist. She has done a lot of traveling with Andre Rieu and
his orchestra; has met many people; has worked with the most
important names of the world of the classical music, in Brazil,
In spite of all she achieved, Carmen shows, during our informal
chat, while enjoying a delicious ice-cream made of “taperebá”
( a fruit, also called Cajá, in some other regions of our country), that she is still the same girl.
During her childhood, she liked mango juice and running along the streets on rainy days in her
city of birth, Belém.
Carmen Monarcha has lived in Pará (the state), for just a short time. When she was two years
old, she moved to Rio de Janeiro with her mother, the well known musician and teacher,
When she was eight the family returned to Belem, and she lived here until she was twelve.
Later, they returned again to Rio de Janeiro. After that, she did not live in the city of her birth
But the singer has a lot of nice memories, from the time that she did live here.
“ One of my funniest memories is that when I was a child, I
would take something heavy, wrap it in newspapers
sheets, put all that stuff inside plastic bags, tie them with a
string, and throw them from the sixth floor window of the
apartment where I lived. I would try to knock down the mango's
from the mango trees which were in front of the building.
Then, I would ask the housekeeper to go pick up the mango's
that had fallen down, and make some juice. I really enjoyed
trying to get those mango's down, and loved that juice.
I also remember that I enjoyed running along the streets, while it was raining. Sometimes I
went to the “Batista Ramos” (name of a street), and stood under the rain water which fell down
off the roofs of the houses. That seemed to me a kind of an waterfall”, she tells.
Carmen tells that she has her roots in “paraense” ( word for the people born in the state of Pará)
soil, and thinks that this is the basis for her life and for her work.
In Rio de Janeiro, Carmen lived the typical life of a teenager. She went to rock concerts, went
to discos to dance, went to musical events and to the beach.
“ Rio de Janeiro, for me, has that nostalgic atmosphere of the time you are discovering the
world. There, I had my first kiss, my first alcoholic beverage… in short, I did a lot of growing
It was there too, that the soprano decided to follow a career as a singer. Before that, she
wanted to become an actress. That happened because of her great familiarity with the
backstage in the theaters where her mother worked, she felt at home on stage. “ I spent a lot
of time at the production activities at the theaters where my mother performed; I used to play
there a lot, and I always was close to the people working there, I also joined the choir.
By the way, do you know how small this world is? Do you know who is conducting “IARA”?
The Maestro Roberto Duarte! I used to see him working with my mother, in Rio de Janeiro. At
that time, he was an idol, someone I really looked up to. And now, I am at “IARA” with him
conducting. That is just crazy thing, boy!”
In spite of her passion for drama in her youth, music was also in her blood. She started to
study music at the age of four. She started with the violin, then the cello, and the piano, until
she decided to pursue a career in singing.
“In the theater you just work with texts; my father is a writer and I also went through a period of
great interest for text and books, and to this day I still love to read. But soon I realized that I
could not live without music anymore. Like I would have to if I were only an actress. And then I
learned too, that with opera, and with lyrical singing, I could be an actress who also sings. And
that is now my passion, I never only think about my voice. As important as the voice is the
message you bring; the expression.”
Her decision to become a singer was a difficult step. Carmen knew that
the comparison with her mother, and the speculation about it, would be
enormous, because she is the daughter of a famous artist. That would
“ I studied a lot of things: singing was the last thing I wanted to do,
because I thought that the comparison to my mother would be a big
challenge for me, and that scared me to death.”
But when she was 17 years old, Carmen finally decided to follow in the
footsteps of her mother. And with her singing, and her mother gave her
“It was funny, but in the beginning, I did not want to sing for her.I remember I had a boyfriend at
that time, and I only was able to have lessons, with my mother there, if I was holding his hand.
But as time went by, those fears went away, and we always work well together. These days
she is my strong point; a reference for me. I always ask for her opinion, when I have to do
something. The age difference between us is large, but it has no influence on me. She is my
best friend. I feel that I can talk to her about everything.”
The singer does not put on the air of being a well known “artist”,
and talks about things she likes to do, which, by the way, are
very common among all young people. Carmen Monarcha
wants to stay far away from the seriousness common on
professional people who belong to the world of the classical
music. She likes to make jokes; talks to everybody; and she
loves to chat. Passionate, and with a kind of a simple beauty,
and a sense of humor that is a little bit naughty, Carmen tells she
takes good care of her health, but nothing too paranoid. Thus
she allows herself, once in a while, to enjoy a beautiful ice-cream
of “taperebá”, as it happened during our talk.
Later, Carmen revealed herself as a typical 26 years old girl: she loves to go to dances with
friends; will not decline to watch a good film; exercises regularly; and is a fan of artists like
Madonna and Cássia Eller (a Brazilian singer, already dead).
“I’m the Madonna's number one fan. I have not seen her live yet, but I think that God always
knows what he does. I would go crazy at a live concert. I own everything she has done till now,
from lyrics to choreographies. I practice her dance steps in front of the mirror, which
sometimes gives me some strange contusions (laughs). And I also like rock music very much. I
think that the death of Cassia Eller was a great loss for the Brazilian music industry. I like
“Barão Vermelho”, “Kid Abelha” (Brazilian rock bands), Jennifer Lopez…So, I like almost
Carmen tells us about what she does for exercise. She loves to run. For the last two years,
she has been running at least three times a week. And she says: “ When I have a day off, the
first thing I do is go out and run. If I could, I’d run the whole day. But I must spend my day
doing a lot more than that, otherwise I would do nothing else, and the days off are so rare. I
also practice yoga, what helps me to maintain my flexibility; brings me balance, and is also an
intensive physical exercise.”
The performer of “Yara” also tells us that she always eats
healthy, not only for vanity, but because she likes it.
“ My mother got me used to eating salads; I don’t like fat or
pop beverages. I don’t drink alcohol and try to sleep well; my
performances on the stage depend on my health.”
Her International career and her new love is taking the
soprano to Canada.
After Carmen decided to make singing her career, many things have happened to her.
When she was 17, she started to sing.
At the age of 19, she won the contest “Irmãos Nobre” and had her first performance in an
Later that year she has won the “Bidu Sayão” contest and a scholarship to study in Europe.
She studied at the conservatory of Music in Maastricht,
She got a contract to work with the Dutch Johann Strauss Orchestra conducted by Andre Rieu.
The work with Andre Rieu resulted in her the appearance in seven DVDs (including Vienna)
and numerous CDs. She says that the popularity that these DVDs brought it a strange thing....
In Brazil, I am a totally anonymous person, but in Holland, Italy, Germany, USA and Canada for
example, many people recognize me from the DVDs and from television... I frequently give
autographs in the streets... This is super-strange. But to feel the affection of the public gives
me more energy and motivation for my work.
During the time she lived abroad, she became stronger. To be
far from her family, to face the cultural differences, the absence
of her friends, the loneliness… Everything has contributed to
make her stronger and more self-confident.
With the end of her contract in Holland, Carmen is moving to
Canada, where she intends to live. She wants to open an opera
studio there, a kind of laboratory where musicians and students
would go to perfect their talent.
But the move to Canada has another special reason: “ a very handsome and wonderful boy-
friend”, in her words. Carmen tells she is heads over heels in love with him, a Canadian sound
engineer, and that she is going to live in Montreal to stay closer of her love.
Carmen told me that her sound engineer, who she met, when he worked for Andre, now has a job
with 'Cirque du Solei' I do think that would have him on the road quite a bit. Carmen also told me
her manager in Brazil will arrange her performances in Brazil as well as in Canada. Her apartment is
Montreal is ready, but she is still performing in Brazil
After Carmen performed in Vienna and Maastricht, she returned to Brazil. She told me she
was not able to perform with Andre in Radio City Music Hall in NYC, because she had prior
commitments in Belém, Para, Brazil. That apparently was her performance at the Opera 'IARA'
on August 4,6 and 8 August, 2006
Carmen said that she is happy to come back the Belém to interpret one of the most fascinating
personages of Amazonian legends - IARA.
She played the leading lady in the Opera "IARA". with Sergio Weindraub as the leading man
and written by Gamma Malcher, also from the state of Para.
She plays the goddess of the river the Amazon. She is half human half fish and lives on the
bottom of the river. With her singing she lures fishermen and hunters to her. (just like the
'Lorelei') According to the legend, she has such feminine appeal that all men fall head over
heels in love with her
She seduces them and promises eternal love, happiness and riches. But when the men go
with her into the water they drown.
Because this Opera was last performed over 100 years ago, Carmen did not have any
references to how the role should be played.
To compose the character, I have the help of stage director
Cleber Papa, and together I am sure we will come up with an
interesting result. I can say that it will be my first experience with
a character who is the wrong side of the life. Ambition, seduction,
egoism, these are some of the factors that I will have to use to
compose the character. For a big part Carmen has given the role
her own interpretation, and she was left very free in doing so.
I will have a surprise for the audience!" she said. (At one point
during the opera she has a bleu cloth around her. When she was in
front of her victim Begiuchira, she drops the blue cloth showing him
her body). She is half fish half women (like a Mermaid), everybody
in the Amazon region knows this legend. This is one of the most
dramatic parts of the opera, but it fits in with the whole artistic content).
Marina Monarcha (Mom)
Carmen interviewed about her role in 'IARA'
Carmen and her stage
directon, Cleber Papa