Monica de Rosa McKay will be performing at an Italian opera gala at the Ductac theatre in Dubai. Image Credit: Kishore Kumar/ANM

I was born in Naples, Italy, and I think music is something we Neapolitans are innately blessed with.

Even as a child I loved to sing. My father was a musician, and he passed on to me a great love for music.

When I was in my teens, my family moved to the city of Ravenna in Northern Italy, and there I met my first music teacher, Anna Maria Fichera at the Conservatory of Ferrara, who encouraged me to study operatic vocal techniques. I took her advice and thus began my musical journey.

A few years later I moved to the Conservatory of Bologna where I met Maestro Leone Magiera, an accompanist to the great Italian tenor, Luciano Pavarotti. Maestro Magiera introduced me to the great musician, and I sang for him and his elite musical entourage. He offered me tips on improving my technique.

After graduating with honours, I began performing and touring many Italian cities. I spent three years at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna where I mainly focused on Italian Opera, including arias from Mozart, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Puccini and Verdi. From 1993, I travelled extensively living and performing in several countries including France, Britain, Mexico, Venezuela, the US and Italy. 

Singing for Pavarotti, after a concert in Barcelona and experiencing first-hand how he worked was a revelation.

I remember travelling by road from Bologna to Barcelona - a distance of over 805km - with Mageira, Pavarotti and a few others to attend a concert of Pavarotti's. We went by car because Mageira had aviophobia (the fear of flying).

The concert was magical and hearing him live was truly moving. Later, I sang for Pavarotti again and he told me that my voice had a fantastic timbre and ‘colour', and that he believed I'd go far. What an auspicious start to my musical career!

We spent three days with Pavarotti and Adua Veroni, his first wife, in their mansion in Barcelona. He was such an open-hearted and friendly person, and a great host. 

I met my Scottish husband in Italy and we got married in 1991.

We moved to Paris, then England, later Mexico... I did a lot of corporate events in Mexico City, then Tabasco, near Cancun. After a year and a half, we moved to Houston, Texas and had two children while living there. We also lived in Caracas, Venezuela for a short while but I'll never forget its beautiful weather and locales.

The most challenging thing about moving to a new place is the initial period of settling down. I did bring up my children alone most of the time, as my husband who worked in the oil industry travelled extensively. I try to keep a fine balance between my family life and music, although it is difficult sometimes. 

After I arrived in Dubai four years ago, I found that my voice had, in a sense, ‘woken' up.

I kind of experienced a musical renaissance. I met other musicians and once again the desire to perform was rekindled. I suppose the fact that my children were older helped!

I was lucky to meet conductor Monsieur Gianluca Marciano and tenor Marc Heller. One great result of this meeting was our successful first concert at the Ductac Theatre, Mall of the Emirates in May last year. The programme included operatic arias and duets, old popular classical songs in Spanish, Italian and Neopolitan Italian, and the premiere of an Arabic song composed and accompanied by oudist Khalid Mohammad Ali. It was a huge success and we had excerpts of it aired on CNN.

Last June, I performed a solo concert in celebration of the Italian Republic, at the Armani at the Burj Khalifa.

Early this year, Ductac asked me to organise a concert titled Italian Opera Night, with guest tenor Francesco Malapena, who was accompanied by David Lesser on piano.

Music is a fabulous pastime, while Dubai is just waking up to the concept of classical operatic music, I believe in the near future we will see major classical music festivals being organised in the city regularly.

Quick questions

What are your hobbies?

Apart from music, which takes up a big part of my day, I enjoy yoga and reading. I like serious fiction and non-fiction. I also play golf and enjoy listening to Verdi, Puccini and Bellini. 

Do you have any dreams?

My biggest dream is to return to Italy some day and sing in front of the people I know so well.

Inside info

Monica de Rosa McKay will be performing at an Italian opera gala, together with tenor Marc Heller, at the Ductac theatre, Mall of the Emirates, on May 27.

Interview by Anupama V. Chand, a Dubai-based freelancer