I was so excited when Amanda reached out. Her schedule was jam packed but her passion shone through! I wanted to dig deeper with this Mezzo-soprano as she dove in to her dual roles of Olga and Fillipyevna in Curtis Opera Theatre's Eugene Onegin. Read on for her take on the industry and how she prepares for her first Russian role.
Q- When do you feel confident as an artist and how does a dress/outfit, lend itself to that confidence?
I feel most confident when I have done even more than is necessary to prepare for the challenges life throws at me whether it be an opera role, self-care, family, surviving in the city or helping my community. If I look my best I am ready to let go of any related insecurity and dive into the task at hand, focusing on the skills necessary to succeed and simply enjoy the moment. Notoriously, my favourite colour is black but there are a variety of textures and shapes in my closet to match my moods. My confidence is boosted daily by curating a sincere outward fashion expression of what is housed inside of me, thus removing a veil between what people see and who I truly am and what I feel.
Q- Does this character resonate?
It is always difficult to embody two characters in one production, let alone two dramatically different Russian women such as Olga & Filippyevna. Olga is admittedly not my favourite character mostly because of her naïveté which aids her often unconscious selfishness but I admire her commitment to her individuality as she grows into a young woman. I see much more of myself in Filippyevna, a dear old soul who is on a very different trajectory than the other women as she hasn't had the opportunities of fulfilled love and wealth afforded to her. She works hard, does her own thing and is the backbone for anyone who needs her, especially those closest to her. She's a silent force of nature with a huge heart and I love transforming into her each night, even though she does talk a little bit too much, and too fast in Russian for my sluggish English tongue.
Q- What did it take for you to prepare for her?
Russian has a steep learning curve for me though it fits my voice best of all languages! I'm lucky to be apt at quickly memorizing music on a tonal level so the pitches come easily, but getting this beautiful text in my body proves to still be a challenge! At any given moment when I'm walking down the streets of Philadelphia, you'll see me prancing around reciting Russian stanzas like a crazy person just so it becomes second nature to me. Embodying the contrasting physicality and desires of these women has also been a fun challenge since one age is such a distant past memory and the other is a lifetime away into the future, I'm really flying by reference to the vibrant youthful people around me and the wise elders I admire.
Q- What do your non-performance hours look like as you interact in this role
I love to roam and explore the city surrounding each theatre I work in. There is so much to draw from cultural centres, libraries, art museums, parks - the list goes on and on because everything has potential to inspire. In Philadelphia I'm often at museums and window shopping to seek out classic and contemporary originality to influence my work and personal life. I surround myself with playlists of jazz, rock, R& B and pop that allows me to tap into different sectors of my mind and personality to rouse my character development. Though we're homebodies, my partner and I train, bike and hike together a lot so that we can have peak energy and agility of our instruments. We love the Appalachian Trail and bi-weekly road trips so we're trying to wrangle our colleagues into joining us more often for the fun.
Q- What are performers going through that may not be glamorous but is real and at the heart of performing, choosing the career you've chosen?
Despite being surrounded by so many grand people and experiences, there is the potential for a lot of loneliness and self-judgement in this field. We are constantly under stress to perform our best despite frequent travel, costly auditions, personal health and general life happening completely unrelated to the stage or rehearsal spaces. You have to know yourself very well and take care of yourself to succeed in this industry so you don't feel overwhelmed by everything thrown at you and thus recede to question your worth and talent. You are enough, you are beautiful and gifted so broaden your hard work and heart to set you apart from the crowd.
Q- What does feeling successful in your career look like for you?
For me, it's not about an über rich income bracket or famous names involved in the productions. If I feel like I have stretched myself as a human and artist while challenging audiences to think differently about the world around them, the work has been a success. I have the most vivid recollections of the "smallest" shows, anything ranging from cabaret style concerts in Henry's up on 105th street or singing in a cafeteria for 300 K-5 students in Aiken, North Carolina, in which the audience lit up with joy and tuned in without judgement or fear - I want that type of "success" to fill my memories throughout my career. Beyond that, financial stability is always a goal and in the patiently earned future I look forward to performing dream roles such as Carmen, Eboli and Amneris.
Q-Have you achieved success and if so what is the next goal?
Earning two college degrees with high distinction while constantly performing amazing works is nothing to scoff at so I'm proud of my academically driven successes (including successful failures) and everyone - primarily my mother and voice teachers - who blazed the path for me to get to this point. I will feel victorious (and relieved) after the completion of this Eugene Onegin production since it will be my first Russian opera and double role duty. Beyond that, I'm preparing my international debut as Anita in West Side Story in Japan February 2018 - with my stellar colleagues we're going to knock it out of the park!