Dr. Okunev-Briggs is a Russian – born, Australian soprano. She earned her Bachelor degree in piano performance from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Dr. Briggs then attained Masters in vocal performance, Newcastle Conservatorium and Doctor of Musical Arts from Sydney University and Royal Northern College of Music, UK. Her research is focused on training and development of young opera singers. Her published thesis on tertiary opera training is available online.
Dr. Briggs was an Australian finalist of the Covent Garden Young Artist scholarship, Lady Fairfax NY scholarship and Australian National Aria award. Maria was the winner of Australian MIETTA recital award in 2008 and received her prize from Maestro Richard Bonynge AC CBE.
Dr. Briggs was privileged to train with Anthea Moller, Amanda Thane, Glen Winslade, Barry Ryan, Anke Hoeppner-Ryan, Andrew Green, Sharolyn Kimmorley, Anthony Legge, Sir John Rowland Tomlinson CBE and Vladimir Chernov.
Dr. Briggs has sung with Opera Australia, Pacific Opera, Lyric Opera Weimar and Glyndebourne Opera Festival, UK. Maria is well known as a superb recitalist and champion of contemporary repertoire. She has recorded new Australian works for voice and small ensemble with ABC Classic FM radio. She has sung in numerous live radio broadcasts as part of the ABC “Sunday Live” series. Dr. Briggs has made her television debut in 2010 in the film I Spry – The Rise and Fall of a Master Spy, ABC Television playing the role of a Russian singer (Hugo Weaving – presenter). Dr. Briggs’ selected performances can be viewed on her website: www.mariabriggssoprano.com
Maria is artistic director of the “Marianna Ensemble” – a cross disciplinary quartet that performs her original compositions, Jazz and world music. Marianna Ensemble is a featured act of the Blue Pie Records label. Their album is available on iTunes, Spotify and all other major platforms. Hear the album and find out more about Marianna Ensemble here.
Dr. Briggs is a featured author of the Classical Singer Magazine. Her recent articles about opera industry and education can be viewed here.
Dr. Briggs joined Fresno State music department in August of 2016 as Assistant Professor of Voice. She now lives in Fresno with her husband Matthew and two sons. Since coming on board Maria performed major works with Fresno State Symphony orchestra, including Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs, Tchaikowsky’s Tatiana in Eugene Onegin and Butterfly in the department’s production of Madama Butterfly, Puccini. Maria also gave a number of solo recitals and directed the department opera productions of Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus” and Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel”. Dr. Briggs got tenured and promoted to Associate professor in 2020. Dr. Briggs made her American opera debut in 2017 performing the role of Tsarevna in Rimsky Korsakov’s Kashchey the Immortal, Island City Opera.
Her American concert performances included soprano solo in Mozart Requiem, Bach’s St John’s Passion, Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9, Orff’s Carmina Burana, and other major choral works. Dr. Briggs is a creator and director of the Fresno State Art Song Festival. The cross-cultural event runs every February and includes performances and masterclasses by international guest faculty, composition competition, poetry competition, lectures, discussions and vocal student showcase prizes.
Dr. Briggs' 2022 album "Winter Evening" Centaur Records explores romantic Russian art song and can be streamed on all platforms.