Q&A with Dr. Maria Briggs on her role as ‘Madama Butterfly’

Dr. Maria Briggs (Butterfly)

The Fresno State Symphony Orchestra and Opera Theatre will present Puccini’s famous opera with performances at 8 p.m. Friday, March 8, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 10, at the Fresno State Concert HallTickets are $20 for adults, $15 for faculty and seniors and $5 for students.

Every two years, music faculty at Fresno State take on the endeavor of producing a full-scale opera in the Fresno State Concert Hall. During the planning meetings, the faculty decided they would likely hire someone to play the role of Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly). That’s when assistant professor of voice Dr. Maria Briggs stepped in and offered to take on the challenge.

We caught up with Briggs and asked her about her role in the production. Here is that exchange:

Q: What is your role in the production of Madama Butterfly?

A: I am teaching the opera course with Dr. Radford. I am also singing the role of Madama Butterfly.

Q: How did you become involved with the opera?

A: Our conductor Dr. Loewenheim, our head of voice Dr. Radford and I discuss possibilities for future productions. We decided together that the next full production with the orchestra will be Puccini’s masterpiece Madama Butterfly. It is one of the most performed operas in the world and is a fantastic opportunity for our students to get involved and become familiar with this iconic work. We also felt that this is something our community, our audience that is, would really enjoy.

Q: What has been your experience during preparation?

A: Preparing an opera is highly stressful as so many elements go into mounting a production: orchestra, soloists, chorus, costumes, props…It is also very rewarding, since the music, the story and the deeply felt drama is so stunning and wonderful to learn. Our biggest challenge as singers is staying healthy during these flu seasons!

Q: What are some of the challenges you have faced in putting on such a large production?

A: The biggest challenge for me personally is finding the time to rehearse my own music, since being a teacher to my students and also a mom always comes first.

Q: What are you most looking forward to at the premiere?

A: I really look forward to feeling like we have done the best job possible and being excited to share our work with the audience.

Q: What impact do you hope the opera will have on Fresno State? The community?

A: I hope that once again we can show how much talent our students have. There are very few music schools who can tackle such a monumental work. I think the community is already very well aware of the music departments’ cultural significance. This will be yet another fantastic event in the line of so many.

Q: Is there anything we missed? Anything you’d like to add?

As far as I know, this is the first time our stage director is a student and not a faculty. Our masters voice student Ashley Trembley will be making her directorial debut. Other things to note are our guest principals: the alumni Tiffani Trujillio, soprano; Lim Forgey, baritone; and guest professor Jonathan Yarrington, tenor. These beautiful artists will be very fine additions to the production and are joining us next week.

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Fresno State College of Arts and Humanities Communication Specialist

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