Up Close and Personal with Mme. Butterfly
IU Jacobs School of Music closes its 2006-07 Opera & Ballet Theater season with Giacomo Puccini's exotic and deeply moving Madama Butterfly. Performing the lead role of Cio-cio-san (Madame Butterfly) is Jing Zhang, a lyric soprano and second-year masters student of vocal performance.
Sung in Italian with English supertitles, Madame Butterfly -- which marked its centennial on Feb.17 -- will be stage-directed by internationally recognized Nicholas Muni, who will make his IU Opera Theater debut. David Effron, professor of music, will conduct the orchestra. The opera runs at the Musical Arts Center on April 6, 7, 13 and 14 at 8 p.m.
During the opera's hectic final week of rehearsals, Ms. Zhang alighted and graciously answered a few questions for Live at IU.
Q: When did you first contemplate becoming an opera singer?
A: It was in 2000 when I went to the first opera master class taught by Ms. Joan Dornemann at Shanghai Conservatory of Music. (Ms. Dornemann is an assistant conductor of the Metropolitan Opera and one of the founders of International Vocal Arts Institute.) I was studying at China Conservatory of Music in Beijing as a full-time student and attended that master class as a non-official student -- a listener. Ms. Dornemann heard me warming up in the lady's room, so she asked me to sing something for her and decided to keep me in that master class as an official student to study with 13 other teachers from MET opera, including Mr. Nico Castel.
Q: What is the best advice you can give to an aspiring opera singer?
A: Study with a good teacher; be patient and prepared.
Q: What about physical conditioning?
A: It is very important to keep your voice, mind and body in the healthy way all the time of course. My professor, Ms. Costanza Cuccaro, always tells me to take more rest and eat well.
Q: How has studying at the IU Jacobs School of Music prepared you for your career in opera?
A: This school is wonderful! It produces the most numbers of operas each year, and the opera house is only a few feet less than MET Opera's stage. That's unique in the music schools among the world. Our facilities and the professional training we receive more closely simulate the professional music world.
Q: In addition to Madame Butterfly, what are your favorite operas?
A: It is hard to pick among so many wonderful operas, but Madame Butterfly is at the top of my list. Cio-cio-san brings the soul into it.