Fresno State’s Opera Theatre program represented the work being done here to a national audience in January.
At the recent National Opera Association Conference in New Orleans (Jan. 3-7), voice Professors Dr. Maria Briggs and Dr. Anthony Radford, as well as master’s graduate Alejandra Tejeda, all presented on behalf of the Fresno State Department of Music.
The theme for this year’s NOA conference was “Opera’s Tradition and Rebirth: New Orleans 1796-2018.” Next year’s conference will be held Jan. 9-12, 2019, in Salt Lake City Utah.
Briggs was one of just 11 who presented their research in a poster session. Her topic was “Traditional Approach Re-examined: Ethnographic Exploration of Early Career Opera Singer Training in Australia.”
“I am interested in the way young opera singers receive their training at tertiary level. I am also interested in what skills are required in the opera industry and how that matches with the training provided,” said Briggs, who attended the conference for the first time. “To that extent, I conducted interviews and observations based on a study of university opera programs and opera companies. This research was part of my doctorate work and was conducted between 2011 and 2015 in Australia and the UK. The findings and discussion were the focus of my presentation.”
Radford gave a presentation on “Lucinda,” the children’s opera that was commissioned and performed for local school children in 2016. He has attended the conference nine of the past 11 years, presenting five times.
His presentation this year was titled “21st Century Opera in Minority/Majority Communities: The Story of ‘Lucinda y las flores de la Nochebuena’ and its Impact on Thousands of Hispanic Children in California.”
The presentation explored how Fresno State Opera Theatre developed a children’s opera with the specific intent of reaching underserved Hispanic children. Radford was accompanied by composer/pianist Evan Mack and librettist Joshua McGuire.
“Fresno State is uniquely placed in a diverse and changing social environment and our story puts us on the cutting edge of what is happening artistically and educationally in the arts,” Radford said. “In all ways, California often acts as a testing ground for ideas and concepts that are adopted later in the national sphere and that applies to ideas in Opera Education. We showed that developing operas that use stories from other cultures, outside of the Western European cultural sphere, can be a way to introduce the art form to new audiences.”
Tejada, who performed the lead role during the children’s opera tour, performed at the conference as part of the Lucinda presentation.
At the recent Arts and Humanities State of the College, Tejada talked about what the experience of attending the national conference meant to her.
“I was exposed to other people my age that are also involved in opera. It allowed me to create connections. … And I was able to represent my school and the great opportunity it bears. I was able to show opera directors and professors at a national level the artistic beauty we shared with children, and I had the opportunity to sing for them!”
Tejada expressed her thanks for the Dean’s Council funds that made it possible for her to take part in the trip.
“Student singers that took part in some presentations were a real highlight,” Briggs said. “It showed off our own vocal program at Fresno State, since we came across as very competitive in our research, presentation and student performance. I found the whole experience very inspiring and stimulating.”
Radford said he has taken students to three conferences — master’s student Marielle Petricevich to Portland in 2013, and Tiffanie Trujillo and Constantine Pappas to Greensboro, N.C., to present the world premiere of the opera “The Secret of Luca.”
“It proves to be as valuable for the presenter as the audience because we can test out ideas before we publish them,” Radford said. “I think it is essential for Fresno State to participate in the national conversation surrounding our art form.”