When professional singer, Simona Mango and her partner, musician Bruce Reynolds, ended up spending a night in a hotel in Malaga due to a cancelled flight, little did they know that fate was actually dealing them a good hand.
The musical couple, who met while they were both living and performing in Switzerland, had long dreamed of living somewhere where “winters don't happen”, explains Simona, 47. “Bruce and I both hate the cold and after a few years of living in Switzerland we were really fed up,” she continues.
Simona and Bruce were introduced to each other by mutual friends who “thought we ought to meet each other because we were both musicians”, the classically-trained singer recalls.
A cancelled flight in 2013 brought them to the city by mistake and two years later they were both fully established, self-employed musicians, registered with the town hall, social security and tax office. “We both just knew that this was the place for us,” explains Simona.
Another thing that she “just knew” was that she was destined to sing as a soloist. “I knew when I was about seven,” she says. “I had this vision of myself in the long gown, standing in front of the choir.” However, she says that she was “too shy” to accept whenever she was invited to sing a solo part in her school choir and it wasn't until she was 25 that she finally took up professional singing lessons and started the career she had dreamed of as a young girl.
Launching a career
“My parents expected me to follow a very academic route and although I went to the conservatory to play piano, I didn't do what I really wanted and that was to sing.”
One day, Simona turned up to her singing lessons covered in paint and suffering the effects of “inhaling too many paint fumes” she laughs; by this time she was restoring furniture, decorating and making stained glass. Her teacher told her that she needed to make a decision. “You have what it takes to be a singer,” the woman told her. “But look at you - you are clearly not one,” she continued, finishing with, “Go home and think about it.”
Simona did just that and found the support of her Swiss-German mother. Her father was from Naples.
By the age of 30 Simona was living in Rome and singing professionally in Italy and some years later she moved to Switzerland, where she was offered a six-month contract in a theatre. “I really owe it all to my mother,” says the singer.
Since their arrival in Malaga in 2015, both Simona and Bruce have been working as musicians, performing as a duet as well as on solo projects or collaborating with other people. Around six months ago Simona was introduced to Cornelia Lenzin, a professional pianist from Switzerland who owns the Molino de Cajiz near Vélez-Málaga and who sometimes holds concerts there.
In fact Simona and Cornelia will be performing together in October. Simona will be singing in Spanish - one of an enviable list of languages that she both sings in and speaks. Added to her native Italian and Swiss-German, Simona speaks English almost without an accent, French, Spanish, some Russian and is currently learning Japanese. “I have a long relationship with Japan, I have friends there and have performed there, so I wanted to learn the language,” the self confessed “language lover” explains. She has even sung in Welsh and spent three days perfecting the pronunciation with a Welsh lady. “When I sent her a copy of the recording she couldn't believe how well I had picked up the accent,” Simona recalls.
Simona dedicates some of her time to her concert organisation, Allegro con Fuoco, through which she not only arranges her own concerts but also events for other musicians. She and Bruce are also in the process of recording an album at their home near Malaga.
As an interesting anecdote, Mango is genuinely Simona's surname. A mistake at the town hall in Naples when her great-grandfather was born led the family name to be changed from Manco, meaning left-handed in Italian, to Mango.
“When I was a child in Italy I had never heard of mangoes,” Simona laughs.