Get to Know Maggie Finnegan

I’d like to introduce you to our new Sonny–Maggie Finnegan–who has graciously stepped in for Rachele Gilmore, who had to withdraw unexpectedly. Maggie was selected after a nationwide search for a coloratura and we’re so lucky to have her. We’re in the thick of rehearsals and I’m happy to report that the singers are in great voice. Director, Sam Helfrich, is molding them into gamers and avatars.

Maggie Finnegan
Maggie during the first day of rehearsals. Photo by Kathy Wittman

Please take a moment and get to know Maggie:

Who is a musician you look up to or see as a positive influence?

One of my favorite musicians today is the singer/activist Janelle Monae. Not only is she a talented vocalist and dancer, but she uses her unique talents as a platform to promote self-love, acceptance, and inclusion. As an African American female who identifies as queer, she gives a voice to minority groups that often remain unheard and misunderstood. Her music is unapologetic, fierce and joyful– three qualities I aspire to have in my life as well as in my performances.

Why did you want to get involved in PermaDeath? What about the show was so compelling to you?

There are many reasons why I wanted to be a part of PermaDeath. The first is that I have been an admirer of Cerise and the wonderful work she does for quite some time and I’ve been hoping for an opportunity to work with her. Likewise, I have been a big fan of composer Dan Visconti’s music and am thrilled to not only be singing his music, but working directly with him on the world premiere of PermaDeath. The third reason can be found in the content of the opera itself. As a singer primarily of new music, I am very passionate about ways to make opera into a more current, accessible and compelling art form. Not only does PermaDeath utilize cutting edge technology and fuse the worlds of video gaming and opera, but it tells a deeply personal story about a young person’s struggle with her own mortality. More than anything, I love delving into characters and using my voice to communicate an emotional journey through live performance. In portraying the character of Sonny, PermaDeath allows me an opportunity to enter into her world and tell her story which is sadly very relevant in our time. I can’t wait to see where the role of Sonny takes me over the next few weeks! 

What do you think of the technology being used in PermaDeath?

The tech being developed and used for PermaDeath is very exciting and has great potential to be embraced by future opera productions. In the past ten years or so, interactive technology has had an increasing presence on live theater stages, from Sunday in the Park With George on Broadway to the Metropolitan Opera’s Robert LePage Ring Cycle. PermaDeath takes interactive tech to a whole new level, using facial recognition software and the creation of avatars for live stage performers. This production embraces the elements that make the time we live in unique and I truly believe that creating a video game opera has the potential to welcome new and younger opera-goers into the opera-lovers community.

What non-musical activity do you enjoy doing on your down time?

One of my favorite activities outside of making music is practicing yoga. I practice hatha and hot yoga several times a week and I find it helps not only with my physical well-being, but also with my emotional and mental health. Between the auditioning, studying, traveling, rehearsing and networking, living the life of an opera singer often feels like a juggling act. Doing yoga helps me to ground myself emotionally and mentally so no matter how hectic my schedule gets, I remain grounded and focused. Singing is also very physically active, and doing hot yoga helps me stay in shape for all the work I do on stage and in the practice room.

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