A few years ago, Amanda Majeski got the opportunity of a lifetime.
Most singers wait a ton of time before getting a shot at opening the Metropolitan Opera season. Many singers never get that opportunity at all.
But there was Majeski on Sept. 22, 2014. Richard Eyre’s massive set for “Le Nozze di Figaro” was rotating to reveal the Countess’ bedroom and everyone was listening to the glorious introduction to the sublime “Porgi amor.” She wasn’t originally announced as the singer set to take on that opening day performance but stepped in rather close to the first show.
It was Majeski’s Met debut, one she had dreamed of since she realized she wanted to be an opera star. It had been a goal since the day that Sondra Radvanovsky’s “Susannah” at the Lyric Opera of Chicago had changed her life and drove her to be even better than she had been to that point as a music education and voice major at Northwestern University.
The realization of that dream has led to the soprano maintaining a strong relationship with the house, performing 16 times since in “Figaro” and “Don Giovanni.”
In a recent interview with OperaWire, Majeski noted that she’s grown quite a bit since then as an artist and as a person.
“I remember finishing the show knowing that I would never do anything scarier in my career. It’s been a couple years since then, and I feel I’ve grown in my own personal life, which of course extends to career. I have tried to switch my focus since then from trying to prove myself to just producing art that moves people and means something. At the end of the day, that’s the greatest privilege of being an artist.”
Completing the Trilogy
These days she is getting ready to do something she hasn’t done at the Met since that fateful day in 2014 – headline a new production. The only difference is that this time, she was supposed to be the one to do it.
Moreover, “Così fan tutte” might just be the most hotly anticipated production of the current season with the famed Mozart work set on Coney Island in the mid-20th century, a locale undoubtedly familiar to many of the Met audience members.
But what Majeski is most excited about is the cast she gets to sing with. Kelli O’Hara has gotten a ton of spotlight ahead of the premiere, but the remaining members are quite the package, including Ben Bliss, Adam Plachetka, Serena Malfi, and Christopher Maltman.
“’Così’ is an ensemble piece, and it feels so good to be part of the whole—and what a talented group we have!” the soprano enthused. “It helps a lot that the lovers in the production—Ben, Adam, Serena, and myself—are all friends and have worked together before this production. The chemistry is there from real life. We would hang out with each other even if we weren’t working on a show together.
“And, getting to know Kelli and Chris has been icing on the cake. We learn and grow with each other every day.”
But when she talks about the cast, she isn’t only referring to the singers.
“The fun of this production is that we have this wonderful group of performers right there with us who don’t sing a note—sword swallowers, strong men, snake charmers, fire breathers—who are all at the top of their own field. We all get to come together and bring Mozart’s music to life on the same stage, and that is so beautiful to be a part of.”
Empathizing with the Other
The soprano will be inhabiting the role of Fiordiligi, who she feels is a perfect fit for her demeanor, mainly because she empathizes deeply with her.
“I am an only child in real life, so I love playing what I would imagine life with a sister would be like,” she noted. “Both ladies are so different, yet they really complete each other. While Dorabella is more impulsive and more passionate, Fiordiligi is more measured, more scrupulous, and doesn’t throw her emotions around. When Fiordiligi says something, she believes it and means it. This is very much like me.
“Consequently, when she develops feelings for another man, she puts herself through the wringer for it—she blames herself, she worries if it’s the ‘right thing,’ she feels guilty. She processes her emotions very similarly to how I process emotions,” she continued. “Then she finally gives in to her emotions and allows herself to fall, it’s not just for fun for her—it’s real and it’s love.
“I must add here, though, that I am happily married. Fiordiligi’s outcome is very different from my own.”
Vegetables For the Voice
Not only is the character appealing to Majeski, but she feels that Mozart’s music suits her voice to perfection. As noted, she has already completed her hattrick of Da Ponte-Mozart operas and performing these three works has only solidified her feelings about the composer.
“Mozart’s music is like vegetables for my voice—in the best possible way. You can’t get away with anything in a Mozart line. Everything needs to be in line technically—breath, placement, legato—in order to best express the elegance and emotion in his writing,” she noted. “So, the more I work on Mozart, the more I’m encouraged to be on top of my vocal game.”
And while Mozart has been the only composer she has performed on the Met stage, Majeski has enjoyed the experience tremendously, noting that the characters she has interpreted have all given her new perspectives.
“Mozart also creates strong female characters, and I love playing each one. They are active women. They take their fate into their own hands and make their own decisions. They don’t wait for a man to do it for them, or to carry out their actions,” she noted. “I actually find a lot more similarities than differences in the characters I’ve played. Countess and Donna Elvira are noble women, Fiordiligi is a 15-year-old girl, but all three could be called victims, in a sense.
“Fiordiligi doesn’t know it until the end of the night, while Countess and Donna Elvira are knowingly wronged at the beginning, but all three make their own choices and take action. I love that around the same time of the night, each character gets what I call the ‘I go, I go to him!’ aria. “Dove Sono,” “Mi Tradi,” and “Per Pieta”. [This] leads to each woman taking her fate into her own hands and going for what she wants. At the end of each opera, we’re not entirely sure if any of the ladies have actually achieved their desired outcome. Mozart brilliantly leaves that for the audience to decide.”
The Greatest Battle
Majeski notes that this is her own fate, with a lot still to learn and new challenges to overcome, including the biggest one she still does battle with.
“The greatest challenge for me has been dealing with my anxiety, and I can’t say I’ve completely overcome it. Some days, some performances are easier than others. I have tools to deal with it and keep it in check, but it often feels like a battle to get out of my own way,” she noted. “It is an honor to have the life I have and to have had the opportunities that I have been given—I never want to feel like I have wasted that opportunity.
“It’s terrifying to think that after so much work, so much dedication, so much time away from my family, anyone can get on a computer and write that you have failed, and others will read it and possibly believe it without seeing for themselves. But, the longer I stay in the game, the more I trust that I’m the one who defines my own success and it’s okay to be satisfied with where I am in this moment and that I can trust my ability to give to the audience, even if it’s not always perfect. Sometimes it’s the imperfect that speaks the most to people.”
One interesting fact that came from our conversation with Majeski is that she would likely be a psychologist or therapist if she weren’t a singer.
“I love listening to people, and helping others work through things, supporting and cheering all the way,” she noted.
In a way, through her career as an artist, she’s already accomplishing that for herself and for others.