Symphony Orchestra and Opera Theatre to perform ‘Madama Butterfly’

“Butterfly” Dr. Maria Briggs, and "Pinkerton" Jonathan Yarrington

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 Hall. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for faculty and seniors and $5 for students.

Set in 1904 in Nagasaki, Japan, U.S. Naval officer Lieutenant Pinkerton is entering into a Japanese marriage with Cio-Cio-San, a young geisha who’s called Madama Butterfly. The 15-year-old girl has been forced to become a geisha to save her family from poverty after the ritual suicide of her father. In preparation for the marriage, Butterfly has converted to the Christian faith out of respect for her future husband and is fully committed to its success. Pinkerton, on the other hand, treats the arrangement as temporary and plans to marry his beloved Kate when he returns home to America. In Pinkerton’s absence, Butterfly’s council urges her to remarry for the welfare of herself and her child, and she finds herself torn between the pressure to conform to Japanese tradition and remaining devoted to her American husband.

Widely considered among the best operas in the world, “Madama Butterfly” can be experienced on campus with a performance that promises to astound by delivering the intensity of a full-scale production in a small concert hall.

Dr. Thomas Loewenheim
Dr. Thomas Loewenheim

The opera is produced by Fresno State professor Dr. Anthony P. Radford and features conductor and professor Dr. Thomas Loewenheim. The Fresno State production of “Madama Butterfly” is one of few operas in the Central Valley where a full orchestra accompanies singers. The collaboration between the Fresno State Symphony Orchestra and the Fresno State Opera offers the community the chance to experience “Madama Butterfly” the way it was intended.

Dr. Maria Briggs
Dr. Maria Briggs (Butterfly)

The role of “Butterfly” will be played by Dr. Maria Briggs, Fresno State assistant professor of voice. The role of “Pinkerton” will be played by guest tenor Jonathan Yarrington, assistant professor of voice at the University of Southern Mississippi. Yarrington acknowledged the dedication needed to prepare for his role as Pinkerton, including the vocal and physical stamina and amount of memorization it requires.

“I first sang this role nearly 15 years ago, and getting to revisit it has been fun,” Yarrington said.

Dr. Jonathan Yarrington

Fresno State alumni and professional opera singers Limuel Forgey and Tiffanie Trujillo will join current students in filling the rest of the roles. While many of the student performers have experience singing opera, for many it will be their first time performing in a full-scale production.

“There are not many schools the size of Fresno State that put on full operas like we do, but we felt that it was important for our program and community to have an event that brought together many elements of the musical and fine arts in one performance,” Radford said. “We are the only school in the Central Valley that is capable of doing this, so we needed to do it.”

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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