August 2011 | F. Paul Driscoll | Opera News
Amanda Majeski makes her Santa Fe Opera debut this season as the villainous Ottone — a courtier who lusts after a shepherdess-turned-queen —in Peter Sellars's production of Vivaldi's Griselda. Sellars has offered a contemporary twist to Griselda by moving the setting from ancient Thessaly to twenty-first-century northern New Mexico. Majeski, who worked with Sellars on his recent Hercules at Lyric Opera of Chicago, is enthusiastic about the change. "Peter takes Baroque music that people sometimes think is un-dramatic and brings tons of emotional and dramatic levels to it. And Ottone's music, which is real soprano music, is spectacular. It's my first pants-role ever, which will be a challenge in itself — sopranos usually sing girls!"
A graduate of Northwestern University and Lyric's Ryan Center, Majeski is a natural stage animal, an increasingly rare breed. Chicago-area opera fans first sat up and took notice of the Gurnee, Illinois native in 2009, when her fearlessly sung Vitellia dominated Christopher Alden's Chicago Opera Theater production of La Clemenza di Tito. Majeski stole the show completely, her astonishingly bold performance capped by a "Non più di fiori" that was staged as a full-blown mad scene. "It was the best. I was wearing a ring that had a hook with a sort of blade on it, so I could tear at a particular panel in my costume all throughout the aria until it was shredded. Then they'd replace the panel for the next show. I had a great time with that one. Mozart definitely keeps your voice a well-oiled machine. When you sing it, you feel like you are walking a tightrope. His music requires you to be really vigilant vocally and at the top of your game."
Majeski proved her mettle as a Mozartean at Lyric Opera in 2010, when she sang her first Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro, at the age of twenty-five — on twenty-four hours' notice. Originally cast as one of the Peasant Girls, Majeski recalls being told that Lyric's scheduled Countess was indisposed "at about three o'clock in the afternoon the day before the show — which is kind of a luxury in that sort of situation, I guess. All of a sudden, I was in a cab headed to Lyric to do the costume fitting, the wig fitting, meet with the assistant director. I met with [conductor] Sir Andrew [Davis] the day of the show — and the next thing I knew, I was onstage, singing 'Porgi amor.' Aaaaaaaah! The adrenaline just takes over and you go. By the end of the show, I was crying and didn't even realize it. It was wild, but it was one of the best times I have ever had onstage."