Sonia Alfonso was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and since she was very young, she precisely knew that one day she would become a singer.
At 19, Sonia represented her country in Mexico at the OTI Festival in 1984, finishing fifth out of 21 countries that participated. Sonia started out as a ballad singer, and during her successful career she discovered her passion for acting. She made a few appearances at prominent musical theater productions, “Claudia,” where she played one of the main characters, and the first Spanish version of the renowned Broadway musical, In The Heights by Lin Manuel Miranda.
Sonia also acted in a few films, The Feast Of The Goat, with Isabella Rossellini and Steven Bauer, and in the bio-picture Maria Montez with Celines, Toribio.
Sonia has reached a turning point in her life as a singer, turning to jazz, and making it big with a new album, “Feeling Good,” for which she successfully sang two Spanish adaptations of great jazz standards, “Summertime” (Es verano) and “The Man I Love” (Mi gran amor). Both versions were approved by the well known publishers Warner Chappell & Warner Brothers.
Sonia was the first Dominican jazz singer at the 2016 Blue Note Jazz Festival, which celebrated its 50th anniversary In this new season full of dreams that will come true for Sonia, we are excited to interview her for InLove magazine.
It’s been a while since the OTI Music Festival, where more than 20 Latin countries competed in 1984, and you won fifth place did you ever think you were going to make it this far in your career?
Starting out as a ballad performer, and at some turning point of my life switching to jazz, I never thought I would make it this far as a jazz singer, but I am extremely humbled, grateful and happy for this outcome.
Your singing career has been evolving, and you received well-deserved merits, tell us about your acting career. How did you manage to star in Latin-American films and the famous Broadway show, In The Heights.
I studied acting at the Onix Baez acting school, but performing music and expressing my songs is acting as well. When I sing, I become that character, I transform. As for the Dominican version of the show In The Heights, I interpreted the role of a grandmother, Claudia, where I happened to play a person who is 20 years older than myself. This role was very intense, because it reminded me of my own grandmother. She brings me a lot of sorrow, and such memories are very nostalgic, which psychologically gave more intensity to the character.
“Feeling Good” is not just any album, it’s an album which you adapted into the Spanish language, with its well known songs: “Summertime” and “The Man I Love.” What inspired such a change in your career, and how did you decide to become a jazz singer?
I really got inspired when I heard a very good jazz singer from Ireland, Emily Conway. She performed at The National Theater (Teatro Nacional) in the Dominican Republic in April 2015. Emily only had a piano and a bass backing her, not even drums, just two instruments, but her performance was still great. I enjoy listening to jazz. I also love Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald. One of the first songs I interpreted was “Cry Me a River.” And one day I said to myself, “Hey, I can do that,” but I also realized that practicing at home and performing on stage are not the same. Adding my own style and flavor to the masterpiece, I created my own version, which became an audience favorite.
How does it feel to be approved by such world famous, distinguished music venues to perform songs that have not been adapted into the Spanish language for over 80 years? “Summertime” is now performed by Sonia Alfonso, please tell us about that.
To me it was an amazing feeling to receive approval by the Warner Brothers Music Group, especially for both songs, “Summertime” and “The Man I Love.” Thanks to them, I can sing them in Spanish, which they had never allowed anyone in the past. They found my versions very precise and to the point of the English versions. It makes me feel great and confident to evolve as a jazz performer.
Is your album, “Feeling Good” distributed worldwide, or only throughout the U.S.? Did your promotional tour extend into Europe as well?
Well, my music is being streamed through Spotify, I-tunes and many more musical channels, therefore it is heard worldwide. Right now, we’re concentrating on N.Y.C., where I perform very often. I am not limited, in time I will perform around the world. (I love New York.)
We already know that you love changes, would you ever go back to sing or record ballads again?
No. I never go back to the past, I believe in moving forward.
What being InLove mean to you?
To me it means passion for life. I’m in love with everything, my music, my family, and life itself.
Miguel A. Elias.
Photo Cesar Sanchez.
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