When Amanda Majeski (Bienen ’06) first came to Northwestern, she thought she might pursue a career in music education. Flash forward to this past December, and Majeski has wrapped up a performance run at the Metropolitan Opera.
Majeski graduated from the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music with a degree in vocal performance. Since then, she has performed at an impressive list of opera venues, including the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Oper Frankfurt. While at the Met this season, she performed in “Le Nozze di Figaro” as the Countess Almaviva.
Originally, Majeski was due to make her Met debut in December as part of the second cast. When the performer who was cast for the first 10 performances canceled on the second day of rehearsal, Majeski had to sing. The next day, the original cast member withdrew from the performance altogether, and Majeski made her debut on opening night in September.
“It was pretty terrifying and thrilling,” Majeski said. “It totally changed my perspective on the whole thing. I was forced to grow right away as opposed to taking my time.”
Even though it wasn’t Majeski’s first time playing the Countess, she still experienced stage fright, which she worked on by running to relieve any anxiety. Some of her other pre-performance routines include going to Subway for a turkey sandwich and going to the theater early for a long warm-up by herself.
“I always make a point when I’m doing a warm-up by myself to get out of my warm-up room and get up in the theater before everyone else gets there,” Majeski said. “I like to feel the space and make it feel like my space.”
By the last performance, Majeski felt she had grown a lot as a performer and felt more confident. She also enjoyed playing the role as the Countess, a newlywed woman whose husband has lost interest in her.
“She’s a real woman with real problems,” Majeski said. “The thing I love about her is that she goes through the whole opera with hope.”
Before NU and the Met, Majeski didn’t grow up with an opera or a music background. Her parents played sports and signed her up for basketball, volleyball and even soccer. Her mom, however, wanted to expose her to various activities. Eventually, Majeski also tried piano, cello and dance lessons.
“I just naturally gravitated more toward the artistic stuff,” Majeski said.
Once at NU, she focused on figuring out what she wanted to pursue, taking full advantage of the close proximity of Lyric Opera of Chicago. Majeski said Bienen profs. Theresa Brancaccio and Richard Boldrey had lasting impacts on her.
Brancaccio said she first met Majeski when Majeski was a high school student during a summer program. She described her former student as a singer with a great attitude, work ethic and an ability to take direction and work consistently.
“It’s reassuring to know someone like her can become so successful with all of the right tools,” Brancaccio said. “She had this joyful commitment.”
Even though Majeski has left NU, she and Brancaccio still work together occasionally. Brancaccio also said while some opera singers are known for a “diva-attitude,” Majeski isn’t one of them.
Boldrey, who first met Majeski in her freshman year of college, said he initially thought her voice was average. When he started coaching her during her junior year, something in her voice changed. Boldrey also took note of her professional drive.
“That’s the main sense I got,” he said. “She was focused like nobody else.”
Once Majeski figured out a new piece and the technique, she could sing it like a “seasoned artist,” Boldrey said.
“She had that sense inside of how a piece of music should go, what the drama was about and she just did it,” he said.
This year, Majeski returns to Chicago to perform in “The Passenger” at Lyric Opera of Chicago, and later in the year she’s heading to Germany to perform at Oper Frankfurt. Majeski said this will be her fourth season at Frankfurt.
“I love the opera company,” Majeski said. “It’s always nice when you live kind of a gypsy lifestyle like I do, bouncing from place to place, it’s always nice to come back to somewhere because it’s familiar.”