Majeski (center) performs as a peasant girl in the Lyric’s current production of The Marriage of Figaro, before her star turn Tuesday as the understudy in the role of the Countess Almaviva.
"She sounds better than Susanna," says one in the audience
OPERA Bronchitis stinks. It especially blows (or rather, affects your ability to blow) if you’re an opera singer. On Tuesday, the German soprano Anne Schwanewilms stepped down from her role as Countess Almaviva in the Lyric’s critically acclaimed revival of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro because of this pesky infection. So the spotlight turned to the understudy, Northwestern grad and first-year Ryan Opera Center member Amanda Majeski, and the nail biting commenced. Will she crash and burn? Or will a star be born? Judging by the audience’s rapturous applause, there was no debate: Majeski is a star. People might remember Majeski from her dynamic performance as Vitella in Chicago Opera Theater’s fantastic modern spin on a lesser-known Mozart opera, La Clemenza di Tito, but Figaro marked her Lyric debut. In Figaro’s earlier performances, she played a barely-noticed peasant girl, but on Tuesday, Majeski, 25, was instantly Cinderella-fied as the Countess Almaviva. The Gurnee native’s silvery voice tackled some of the opera’s most difficult passages with a dignified melancholy that matched the role. After her first aria, my friend poked me and whispered, “She sounds better than Susanna,” referring to the show’s star character, played by the much buzzed about Danielle de Niese. De Niese (even in electric boogaloo–blue eye shadow) is an absolute delight, but on this night, Majeski owned the stage. She was visibly moved by the audience’s reaction, and the feeling was mutual. It feels great when an underdog’s done good, right? You can catch Majeski as the Countess on Friday, March 12th before the local darling Nicole Cabell steps in to cover the role.
GO: Thru Mar 27. $33-$207. Civic Opera House, 20 N Wacker, 312-332-2244. lyricopera.org
WHAT THE LOCAL CRITICS SAID:
- Chicago Tribune review, 3/2/10:
John von Rhein wrote about this Figaro: "The show has been back several times over the years, with various casts, but when it returned to the company for the first time this season Sunday afternoon, there was a sparkle and vitality about it I don’t recall having witnessed since this Nozze di Figaro was new."
- Chicago Sun-Times review, 3/2/10:
Andrew Patner said the soprano Danielle de Niese in the lead role as Susanna "gave one of her best performances to date—expressive, yes, but never overacting and with an enviable fidelity to both score and text. . . . RECOMMENDED."
- New City’s review, 3/8/10:
Dennis Polkow wrote, "What particularly distinguishes this incarnation is how well the cast blends together the distinct vocal sonorities that Mozart so carefully laid out as well as the superb acting of cast members in even the smallest of roles. . . . RECOMMENDED."
- From the Beyond Words blog at ChicagoNow, 3/8/10:
The local composer and classical-music blogger Evan Kuchar said, "This production is amazing. I’m not usually one to like comedic operas, but this production at the Lyric made me EL OH EL. The libretto is already stuffed with puns and terrifically awkward situations, but these singers bring it to life."
photo by Dan Rest/courtesy lyric opera