Thursday, May 4, 2017

Amanda Opuszynski’s Feathers Fly in Seattle ‘Flute’

Photo Jacob Lucas


INTERVIEW: Seattle Opera

McCaw Hall
ERICA MINER

From the Sandman/Dew Fairy in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel to Papagena in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Amanda Opuszynski’s bell-like soprano has been ringing out from the Seattle Opera stage. The Connecticut native worked her way up through the ranks as a Seattle Opera Young Artist in 2011-12 to make her SO debut as Frasquita in Carmen that season, and on Sat., May 6, will feather her nest as Papageno’s “favorite dish” Papagena.

EM: Amanda, what was it like, growing up in Connecticut? When and how did you first become aware of opera?

AO: Basically, opera was a very happy accident in my life. Thanks to my mom's love of Gene Kelly and movie musicals, I started tap dancing when I was 3, began taking voice lessons when I was 11, and auditioned for my first musical (Annie) when I was 12. I got the part... and got totally bitten by the theater bug! I'd been a pretty shy, bookish kid, but doing Community Theater really brought me out of my shell. I dreamed of being on Broadway until my high school voice teacher, Donna Schaffer, convinced me to learn an aria for our studio recital. I really enjoyed it, and since singing had always been my favorite part of musicals anyway, I decided to apply for (classical) voice performance programs for my undergraduate degree. I received a scholarship to the University of Michigan, and sang my first operatic role (Musetta in Bohème) during my senior year. I decided to just keep following the green lights and see where they took me. 

EM: What was your transition like from SO Young Artist to appearing in main stage roles? 

AO: Shortly before I "graduated" from the Young Artist Program, I was invited back to cover two of the Rhinemaidens in Seattle Opera's 2013 Ring Cycle. (That's when I first discovered how beautiful Seattle is in the summer!) Since then, I've been fortunate to enjoy a series of re-engagements: Najade in Ariadne auf Naxos (also directed by the wonderful Chris Alexander) in 2014, Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro in early 2016, the Sandman/ Dew Fairy in the fall of 2016, and now Papagena. Though I hope Seattle Opera reinstates its Young Artist Program, it would certainly seem as though I've been reaping the benefits of its suspension. 

EM: Rhinemaidens, how cool. Is the role of Papagena as fun to play as it looks?

Photo Jacob Lucas
AO: Extremely fun! Some roles are a lot of work for little glory, but Papagena is entirely the opposite. People always look forward to and remember Papagena, which almost makes me feel guilty, considering I don't even arrive at the theater for my makeup call until the opera's already been underway for a full half hour! (In fact, I'm still relaxing on my couch 23 minutes before tonight's dress rehearsal, while Papageno has already been at the theater for 90 minutes!) 

EM: Do you find it difficult to suddenly start singing after appearing only in dialogue scenes earlier in the opera? 

AO: Not particularly. The duet is only about 3 minutes long, and doesn't pose any technical challenges. It's just fun to finally come out and sing a little! I also have plenty of time backstage between dialogue scenes to keep my singing voice warmed up. 

EM: Zandra Rhodes has designed a wildly feathered costume for your character. How does it feel to be romping around the stage with all those feathers? 

AO: They are SO luxurious! If I were a magical bird-girl, I'd want to have feathers as glamorous, soft, and richly colored as Papagena's. That said, my oversized tail feathers are something of a hilarious liability in a small backstage space - they almost took down some snacks in the green room. Perhaps I should limit my costumed romping to the stage! 

EM: What are some of your favorites among the other roles you’ve performed, either at SO or other companies? 

AO: A couple months ago, I originated the role of Bess in the world premiere of Riders of the Purple Sage at Arizona Opera - that was an unforgettable experience! My favorite standard repertoire roles have been Norina in Don Pasquale (the SO Young Artist Program production) and Nannetta in Falstaff (Virginia Opera). I've sung Frasquita in Carmen so many times (including SO's 2012 production), I'd be remiss to exclude her! 

EM: Which other roles are on your “wish list?” 

AO: I love Mozart, so I've always wanted to sing Pamina in Zauberflöte and Susanna in Figaro. I would have also loved to sing Violetta, Mimi, or Gilda one day. 

EM: “Would have” loved? 

AO: This production actually marks my retirement from life as a professional singer. In June, I'm starting a Speech & Hearing Sciences degree at the University of Washington to transition into a career as a speech-language pathologist. Ultimately, I'm hoping to work with professional voice users (singers, actors, teachers, etc.) and impart some of the wisdom I've learned throughout the past decade as a singer. This production has been a very bittersweet experience for me, knowing it is my last show, but the joyfulness of Papagena (and beauty of Mozart) has been a lovely note on which to end. 

EM: The opera world will miss you, Amanda. Toi, toi, for Saturday night!

Photo Philip Newton

Seattle Opera’s The Magic Flute runs from May 6-21 at McCaw Hall.

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Photo credits: Jacob Lucas, Philip Newton
Erica Miner can be reached at: eminer5472@gmail.com

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