10 July 2019
Notes from the Rehearsal Room: Amanda Majeski
By Amanda Majeski
Hello, Santa Fe Opera readers and supporters! My name is Amanda Majeski, your Fiordiligi in our production of Così fan tutte. I’m here on the blog to peel back the curtain, and give you a glimpse of a typical (and maybe not so typical) day of rehearsal as cast and crew work together to put the show on its feet and create a magical, meaningful night of theater and music for you, our dear audience. Thanks for following along!
Today’s morning rehearsal started around the diorama. Honestly, when I was a fifth-grader making one of these for a book report, I never thought it’d be very useful in my adult life. Turns out, in opera, they’re essential. Having a diorama gives the artists an idea of what they will see when they step out on stage. It’s here that our director talks through his concept for the scene, shows us our basic blocking using our adorable figurines, and together we discuss each character’s inner subtext and emotion, and how to best convey that to the audience.
Once we’ve talked through the scene, we check in musically with Maestro Bicket. Opera is the melding of drama and music; one holds the other up. Especially with Mozart, if the music is performed sloppily, it fails to represent the drama of the story. If the action is unclear, the power of Mozart’s music isn’t as beautifully rendered. It’s a balance, a dance, and it’s so important that both music and action are given equal weight and importance in rehearsal.
We spend the rest of the morning staging the Act I sextet. This production of Così, in general, is truly unlike any I’ve ever done, as our innovative director R. B. Schlather works to emphasize the extreme oppositions in the plot and emotion. In our bodies, this means finding moments of intense stillness in a tight formation as a group, (I lovingly call this our 'zone defense') which portrays different meanings for different characters. For Fior, this emphasizes her intense insecurity in her circumstance and how trapped she is, bound by how she feels she SHOULD react, versus how she WANTS to react. This is followed by a moment of extremely quick action when all the lovers appear almost swept away by a quick wind. If we do this correctly, we look like pinballs bouncing on top of and around each other, expressing how tumultuous and frankly, awkward, the game we are playing is becoming. One might think this type of action is easy to do, but oh man, it’s some of the hardest staging I’ve ever encountered, because of how specific and precise everything has to be in order to look clean.
After lunch, things get, well, a little dirty. Typically, in the Act I finale of Così, we see the men come out and drink “poison” and the women attempt to “save” them. In our production, towards the end of the finale, the lights go dark and the lovers search for one another, and in the process, things get, well, goopy! The characters, in all of their goopy glory, are immediately filled with panic and shame, which inspires the frantic music at the end of the act.
Now, this goop needs practice, too, and today is the day. We change into our costumes, and hesitantly head over to Stieren Orchestra Hall, where the goop is being mixed by our fantastic costume and makeup team. It takes a village, guys. This goop is pre-loaded underneath and in the mens’ jackets in packet form and soaked in sponges in the coat pockets.
Once all is loaded, we’re allowed to step onto the giant tarp and start playing. What can I say about this experience? Well... let’s start with the goop itself. It’s sugar-and water-based and starts out slick and smooth and black. Word has it the formula was actually created for the Harry Potter musical, which, I must say, made us feel very cool. The downside is that as it starts to dry on your skin, it gets sticky. Very sticky. Imagine covering yourself in maple syrup and you’d have it about right.
It’s times like these when I’m so grateful for our small opera community. Having worked with Ben Bliss, our Ferrando, and Jarrett Ott, our Guglielmo, previously, and since Emily D’Angelo (Dorabella) and I share an agent, there’s already deep friendship and trust amongst our foursome, allowing us to play and make this fun. (Though I must say when we really got carried away and Ben went for my hair with the maple syrup goop, I almost lovingly punched him in the tooth.) I feel so lucky that with this group there is no awkwardness; just fun, support, and silliness. We will all be showering during the intermission, and I’m pretty sure my nails will be properly “gooped” for the entire summer!
I’m so looking forward to sharing not only this gorgeous music but this inventive production with all of you starting July 13th. Bring an open mind, an open heart, and we’ll meet you at the opera!
American lyric soprano Amanda Majeski is rapidly garnering critical acclaim for a voice of “silvery beauty” (Musical America) that combines “transparent fragility with soulful strength.” (Chicago Sun-Times). Ms. Majeski’s appearances at the Santa Fe Opera include her debut in Vivaldi’s Griselda as Ottone in a production by Peter Sellars, Countess Madeleine in Capriccio and most recently her first performances of the Composer in Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos to rave reviews. This Santa Fe Opera season she sings Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte in a new production directed by R. B. Schlather and conducted by Harry Bicket. You can learn more about Amanda by visiting www.amandamajeski.com.
All photos courtesy of Amanda Majeski.