January 22, 2014 | Kyle MacMillan | Chicago Sun-Times
Amanda Majeski is having her moment.
While the 29-year-old soprano can’t be called a bona fide opera star quite yet, the Gurnee native is certainly racing in that direction, with recent and upcoming debuts at top companies worldwide, including the Opernhaus Zurich and Metropolitan Opera in New York.
“There are all these things about the business I would never have expected, but it’s a crazy ride, and it’s fun,” said Majeski, who lives just a few blocks from Chicago’s Civic Opera House with her husband, bass-baritone Sam Handley.
The singer’s focus right now is on her next big career milestone — her solo recital debut Feb. 7 in New York’s Weill Recital Hall, the most intimate of the three venues that make up the Carnegie Hall performance complex.
As a lead-up to that event, she will present the identical program Jan. 26 in Northwestern University’s Lutkin Hall in Evanston — her first performance at the school since she graduated in 2006.
It was at Northwestern that Majeski discovered that she possessed the vocal skills for a potential operatic career, so she gave up her initial plans to be a high-school music teacher and put all her energies toward that goal.
“I started working with [vocal teacher] Terry [Theresa] Brancaccio, and she encouraged me,” the singer said. “I went to see operas and I fell in love with the art form, and I was like, ‘Maybe, I could actually do this for a living.’”
After proceeding to earn a master’s degree at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, she took part in the Ryan Opera Center, the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s artist development program, in 2009-11.
A major career breakthrough came during her first year there, when she was asked in March 2010 to substitute at the last minute for a singer who fell ill. She gamely handled the major role of Countess Almaviva in two performances of “The Marriage of Figaro.”
“So, I got to have that Cinderella moment of, ‘You’re on,’” she said. “It’s crazy. It’s completely terrifying and an out-of-body experience, and only later can you actually process what really happened.”
Majeski considers Lyric Opera to be her home company, where she will sing the role of Vitellia in the company’s March production of “La Clemenza di Tito.”
The centerpiece of her recital program at Northwestern and Carnegie Hall with Chicago pianist Alan Darling, will be Alban Berg’s “Seven Early Songs” (1905-08). Other selections will include Robert Schumann’s “Frauenliebe und -leben” and four cabaret songs by Benjamin Britten.
“I wanted to find pieces that fit my voice well but were also about different types of love – crazy love, real love, silly love,” Majeski said.
The soprano is happy that her hometown fans will have a chance to hear the program before she and Darling take it to New York and that her alma mater was willing to supply the venue.
“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t this be a great idea if we could go back to our home and try it out before Carnegie?’” she said. “So, I was thrilled that Northwestern still wants to support me in that way. I think it is really special.”