After a career spanning nearly two decades, multiple countries and numerous roles, opera professional and IWU professor Isai Jess Muñoz will take a trip this summer back to where it all began: he’s going home.
“It’s interesting because this will be my first time ever singing with the Orlando Philharmonic. It’s my debut with them,” said Muñoz, an Orlando native, of his upcoming role in the Philharmonic’s production of Madama Butterfly. “Though I’ve sung all over the world, my schedule never permitted me to appear in a staged production of an opera back home.”
Muñoz has appeared with The New York Philharmonic and The New York City Opera, and in performance spaces across the United States, including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.
Muñoz’s love affair with opera began in fifth grade, while watching a group from the Orlando Opera Company perform for his elementary school. He ran home as soon as the performance ended to ask his mother to call the group to see if they might have a place for him.
“I just fell in love with it from the start. I knew right then and there that moment was pivotal in my life because it changed me. Ever since then I had my eyes set on doing opera,” said Muñoz.
After graduating from a performing arts high school, Muñoz earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Voice and Acting at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He moved to New York, where he finished his Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance at The Manhattan School of Music and began working professionally on stage as a tenor. After twelve years, Muñoz returned to the educational realm to begin work on his Doctorate in Musical Arts at SUNY Stony Brook, which he completed in 2011.
He joined the Indiana Wesleyan University community as an assistant professor of voice and opera in the fall of 2012. He currently serves as instructor of applied voice, the opera theater workshop seminar and as stage director of IWU’s annual operatic productions. Muñoz has expressed his appreciation for IWU’s support of his dual career as performer and educator.
“I’ll say that ultimately I do continue performing actively because I believe it informs my work in the classroom,” Munoz said. “It’s wonderful in the sense that it forces me to assess my work and the work of my colleagues. It helps me to stay current in the field. I also find that daily revisiting the principles of great singing and performances with my students likewise strengthens my own performances.”
In the short amount of time that Muñoz has been at IWU, he continues to accept engagements on operatic stages across the world. He appeared with the St. Petersburg Opera Company in their October production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
This coming March, Muñoz will appear in the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra’s production of Madama Butterfly. He’ll be playing the role of Goro, a tenor position designed for comic relief. While the production offers him a platform for his considerable skill, it also presents him with an opportunity he’s never before had – the chance to professionally debut in his hometown.
“I am grateful to God that after all these years in the business, I finally have the opportunity to share the gift of song with all of my friends and family back home,” Muñoz said.