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Tonight is opening night of Der Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. I’m not there, obviously–I’m sitting at home, eating pretzel M&Ms, doing laundry, singing Bizet songs and marathoning Law and Order: SVU (because there is never anything else on TV–well, hardly ever!).

But I wanted to post about it anyway, because Amanda Majeski is singing Eva. I thought about redacting her last name for this post, but she’s singing Eva in Meistersinger at the LYRIC OPERA, so I’m not going to worry about it.

Amanda was a senior at Northwestern when I was a freshman, and she was my hero in every way. The first time I ever went to the Lyric Opera was to see Manon Lescaut, and my friend Katie and I got a ride home from Amanda and Mark VanArsdale. I didn’t know which way was up. They were just people, but they were SENIORS, and they were amazing.

I went to Amanda’s senior recital, but I almost didn’t get a seat. I have never seen that many people at one person’s school recital before or since–well, except maybe a friend of mine whose family invited everybody they knew, and everybody came. But Amanda sang a Handel cantata with harpsichord, Liszt’s settings of Hugo poems, a set of Strauss (including “Ich schwebe,” which I attempted to sing myself that year…oof), and “I want magic” from Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire.

And then, as if it wasn’t already the greatest hour of music I’d ever heard, she sang Song to the Moon from Rusalka as her encore.

I will never forget the atmosphere in Lutkin Hall that night. We were all aware, even those of us who were totally green and didn’t really know much about it, that we were in the presence of a star. After that she went off to Curtis, then got into the Ryan Center, and everybody who had known her even a little at school cheered when she stepped in at the last minute as the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro. I went to see her as Vitellia in La Clemenza di Tito at Chicago Opera Theater, and I was amazed by how effortlessly she tossed off that difficult music, and how graceful and easy she looked onstage.

My senior year, I got cast as Valencienne in The Merry Widow on a Friday morning, and at noon I went to studio class so excited I couldn’t stand it, and who should be there, visiting from the Ryan Center, but Amanda Majeski. And she sang Marguerite’s Jewel Song from Faust–it could not have been a better day.

What Amanda Majeski represents for me, other than nostalgia for music school, is hope. Sometimes with all of the auditions, the rejection, sending all of those applications into the void and wondering if anything would stick, it is so hard to remember why we do it, what the ultimate goal is. And the fact that somebody who graduated a mere four years ahead of me, who studied with the same teacher, took the same classes, is singing at the Lyric and all over the world now gives me permission to imagine that such a future is out there for me.

So thanks, Amanda, if you happen to Google yourself and read this. You’re amazing, and even if I miss Meistersinger, I will absolutely not be missing you singing Clemenza di Tito with Joyce di Donato as Sesto next season. Brava!