Theater & Arts

July 30, 2014

California Opera kicks off first weekend of festival

The California Opera Association's annual arts and education festival, one of the highlights of the summer season for classical music fans, is a little smaller this year. The festival usually includes a fully staged opera or two at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis, but that facility was unavailable this August because of planned renovations.

Edna Garabedian, the festival's artistic director, opted for a lineup of recitals featuring guest artists and festival students. She's calling this year's event the "2014 Piccolo Festivale," with events over the next two weekends taking place mostly at the Fresno Art Museum.

Hope Briggs, who performs 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 3, at the museum, is one of this opening weekend's highlights. Here's a rundown:

The concert: "Sketches of Stardom."

The singer: Briggs is a veteran opera singer based in the Bay Area. Past prominent roles include San Francisco Opera ("Doktor Faust"), Sacramento Opera ("Aida"), New Orleans Opera ("Porgy and Bess") and Frankfurt Opera ("Doktor Faust.")

Her connection to California Opera: Briggs has been a student of Garabedian's for the last year. "One thing I love about Edna is that she's always discovering things in your voice and your physical makeup," she says. "She can notice how certain structures in your anatomy work and how it affects your singing."

The program: Briggs will sing arias by Verdi and Mozart, German art songs and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," one of a series of spirituals. (George Skipworth will accompany on piano.) "I love singing spirituals," she says. "It's a way to invite people into my world and share a bit of my culture."

Her dream role: Briggs is growing into a spinto soprano voice, and she'd love to tackle the title role in "Tosca" one day.

Her advice to the aspiring students at the festival: "You have to run your own race and not look to what other people are doing."

Other events in this year's festival, all at the Fresno Art Museum: "A Collage of Classics" Artists' Showcase, 7 p.m. today; "Rockin' Opera" master class with Christian Catena, 2 p.m. Saturday; "A Mural of Memories" memorial and dedication, 7 p.m. Saturday; Suzanna Mizell in "A Decor of Divas," 7 p.m. Aug. 8; "A Mosaic of Music," Junior Company concert, 2 p.m. Aug. 9; "Etchings of the East" Asian concert, 7 p.m. Aug. 9. All events are free.

Details: (559) 225-6737.


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