Featured Artist of the Month

Amy Justman, Soprano

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Q:  Where are you from, when did you start singing and what influenced your decision to pursue this career path?

A:  I’m originally from Port Jefferson, NY, but I’ve lived in Manhattan since I graduated from college. I started studying piano when I was 4 and a few years later, my elementary school chorus teachers noticed that I had a strong singing voice, and worked with me outside of class to cultivate my talent. Soon after that, I started working at a professional theater in my hometown, Theatre Three, where I performed until I graduated from high school. I was an excellent student, but I always felt like my musical talents were what made me stand out.

 

Q:  Who was/is your musical muse?

A:  I really admire my fellow female classical singers who have branched out in new and non-traditional directions. My friend Lauren Worsham is a particular inspiration, singing major roles with New York City Opera then turning around and singing with her rock band, then getting a Tony nomination for her first Broadway show. I also love all of the multi-faceted women who sing with Roomful of Teeth, especially Eliza Bagg and Esteli Gomez, and would kill to be involved with the contemporary and genre-bending projects that the incredible Jennifer Zetlan has been doing.

"Among the street chorus, I was most impressed by soprano Amy Justman's clear, wistful lyric soprano in the song 'Thank You.'"

~Opera News review of Bernstein’s Mass at Carnegie Hall, Fred Cohn

 

"An on-stage force of nature, Amy Justman conveys apt stubbornness as the straight-laced Betty, a role she understudied on Broadway. As evident in her role as Susan in the 2006 Company telecast on PBS, her singing is superb, and she inhabits her character. Justman displays sultry charm and wonderfully vibrant vocals in the torchy '"Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me'..."

~Utah Theater Bloggers review of White Christmas at Pioneer Theatre, Blair Howell

 

“Justman has a pure, clear soprano voice totally suitable to her character’s meek and mild nature. While she is excellent in the ensemble numbers, she is incredible in her solos, “When Hope Goes” and “Wild Bird.” One of the things Justman is able to do so well is convey a change in her character through these two songs — weakness in the first act and quiet strength in the second.”

~Blue Ridge Now review of The Spitfire Grill with Flat Rock Playhouse, Katie Winkler

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Q:  What has been your favorite role to sing so far?  What is your dream role?

A:  Two years ago, I got to play Marian in The Music Man in a concert version for Yale, where I did my undergraduate degree, and later got to sing some of Marian’s songs for a concert at Merkin Hall. That role fits me like a glove, both vocally and temperamentally. I think my dream role would be something that hasn’t yet been created, but that would highlight both my particular sound and personality – anyone want to write a role for a neurotic lyric soprano with a dry sense of humor?

 

Q:  What’s the weirdest or funniest thing that’s ever happened to you during a performance?

A:  I joined the cast of the Broadway show, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, and made my debut after only 4 days of rehearsal! I was covering 3 ensemble roles, and was supposed to have 2-3 weeks of rehearsal before I was expected to actually perform. I went home after a Friday rehearsal to grab dinner before watching the show, and the stage manager called at 6:30 to say that too many people were out and they needed me to go on that night! I jumped in a cab to get to the theater for a 15 minute rehearsal with the cast, most of whom I had never met, to put on someone else’s wig and hope that the costumes they hadn’t finished measuring me for would fit. I remember standing in the wings for my first entrance and just laughing to myself thinking, “This show just won the Tony Award and this audience is going to see someone in it who barely knows what’s coming next!” I had never done any of the costume changes, so I just stood still and let the dressers rip the costumes off me and shove the new ones on. I felt comfortable enough with all of the vocals, thank goodness, but there were scenes where the stage manager talked me through the blocking minutes before I had to go onstage. And luckily, the other amazing understudy was able to cover all of the production numbers that I hadn’t learned yet at all. I don’t think anything else I’ve done was quite as crazy or nerve-wracking as that night!

Q:  If you could, in real life, have dinner with one fictional character from an opera, who would it be and why?

A:  I’d love to have dinner with Leporello [from Don Giovanni] and hear all the gossip on his travels and travails with the Don.

 

Q:  What concert or opera have you just sung and what's coming up for you?

A:  Over the summer, I sang a chamber version of Mahler’s Symphony no. 4 with Broadway Chamber Players as well as returning to Phantom of the Opera for 5 weeks. In January, I’ll be starting rehearsals for the Broadway revival of Carousel, where I’ll be covering both Jessie Mueller as Julie and Renee Fleming as Nettie.

 

Q:  What do you imagine life looks like after you step away from singing full-time?

A:  If Barbara Cook could sing into her 80s, why should anyone stop? But if I have to, I imagine my life would include a greater proportion of teaching/coaching and non-musical acting work, potentially in television and film. From where I am right now, I can’t imagine retiring completely!

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"Amy Justman drives her performance of the seemingly cold, distant and down-to-business Claire with just enough pain and tenderness that her final unfolding is a believable, wrenching and beautiful release."

~Metroland review of Ordinary Days with Adirondack Theatre Festival, Kathryn Geurin

 

"Justman’s Claire may have the hardest story arc (with a final reveal that explains her pain — maybe just a bit too late), but every note by the actress is true and honest from a woman on a precipice in the frantic 'Cancelling the Party' to a pleading gasp for air in a taxi bound for nowhere in 'Gotta Get Out.'"

~Daily Gazette review of Ordinary Days with Adirondack Theatre, Festival, Matthew G. Moross

 

“Amy Justman…plays Heidi with grace and passion.”

~Talkin’ Broadway review of [title of show] with Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Robert Boyd

Q:  What indispensable piece(s) of advice have you received that helped you along your musical journey, something to share with today's young and aspiring opera singers?

A:  When I was doing one of my first summer stock jobs right out of graduate school, an older actor told me you should consider three factors when deciding whether or not to take a job: career, money and art. You rarely get all three; if you get two, jump at the chance. And if it doesn’t satisfy any of them, don’t waste your time. It was a good yardstick at a time in my career when I was sometimes doing five open call auditions a day. And I believe that the “no”s have often been the thing that have moved my career forward, as hard as they are for me to say.

 

Q:  What are your plans for the holidays and do you have a favorite holiday tradition?

A:  Two Christmases ago, it was unseasonably warm, so my husband, Dave, and I decided to take our then 10-month-old, Max, to the Central Park Zoo – it’s open 365 days a year! Last Christmas, it was almost as balmy, so we said, why not do it again? I have a feeling that unless this Christmas is actually wintry, this will be our Christmas Day, post-present-opening, tradition.

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Insignia Artists' Featured Artist: Amy Justman