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Dolora Zajick (pronounced ZAH jick[dubious ]) (born 24 March 1952) is an American mezzo-soprano opera singer who specializes in the Verdian repertoire. Zajick has been described as having “one of the greatest voices in the history of opera”.
Born in Salem, Oregon, but raised in Nevada, Zajick was a pre-med student at the University of Nevada, Reno and member of the Nevada Opera chorus, when her talent was first noticed. She studied voice with Ted Puffer, conductor of Nevada Opera, whom she credits with developing her vocal technique and guiding her in career moves, especially early in her performing career.
She graduated from the University of Nevada with a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in music before going to New York for further music studies at the Manhattan School of Music. In 1982 she won the Bronze Medal at the 7th International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, the only non-Soviet medalist that year and the first American musician to place in the contest in over twelve years. After this and graduating from the Manhattan School of Music, she was offered a place in the San Francisco Opera's Merola Program, she debuted with the San Francisco Opera as Azucena in Il Trovatore in 1986, which launched her to international acclaim.
In addition to the role of Azucena, Zajick is well known for her interpretations of Amneris and Eboli (in Verdi's Aida and Don Carlos respectively). Zajick has also performed in other Verdi roles, including Ulrica in Un ballo in maschera and Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. She has also appeared as the Princess in Cilèa's Adriana Lecouvreur, Marfa in Moussorgsky's Khovanshchina, Ježibaba in Dvořák's Rusalka, Joan of Arc in Tchaikovsky's The Maid of Orleans, Santuzza in Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana, Adalgisa in Bellini's Norma, Dalila in Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila, the title role in Massenet's Hérodiade and Léonor in Donizetti's La favorite.
In 2005, she created the role of Elvira Griffiths in Tobias Picker's An American Tragedy at the Metropolitan Opera, New York. In recent years, while continuing to sing her established repertoire, she has added the roles of the Countess in Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades, La Zia Principessa in Puccini's Suor Angelica, made her Wagner debut as Ortrud in Lohengrin, her Poulenc debut as Madame de Croissy in Dialogues des Carmélites), and her Britten debut as Mrs. Grose in The Turn of the Screw.
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Since 2006, Zajick has been a driving force in the work of the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices. The Institute was created to address the severe shortage of large, dramatic voices, especially for the great roles of the Verdi, Strauss and Wagner repertoire, by finding, developing, and inspiring the next generation of these unique talents so they may reach the world’s great opera stages.
In August, 2014 Zajick’s first public composition, an opera scene titled “Roads to Zion” was premiered at The Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph in San Jose, CA. The work was written for performance during the celebrations by the Carmelite Order of the 500th anniversary of the birth of St Teresa of Avila and is available in a commercial recording. It sets a text derived from Psalm 84 and is in three parts: 1) “A Soul Yearns”, 2) “A Soul Takes Flight” and 3) “A Soul Returns”. The first and third parts contain dialogues between soloists and choir, while the middle movement is purely instrumental.
Reviewers praised the “accomplished vocal and instrumental writing ... that delivered its message in a resonant, almost beatific, glow” and noted that “this music created an intense experience. Its impressive orchestration and unified architectural design made it a most fascinating piece”.
A second work, "Birdsong", was premiered by Chanticleer in March 2015 at the 2nd National Youth Choral Festival in San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall. This piece is a setting of a poem from the anthology I Never Saw Another Butterfly.
- 1987 Verdi: Messa da Requiem Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala Riccardo Muti. EMI
- 1991 Verdi: Aida (Amneris) Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, James Levine. Sony
- 1992 Prokofiev: Ivan the Terrible/Alexander Nevsky (Nevsky) London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Mstislav Rostropovich. Sony
- 1993 Verdi: Don Carlo (Eboli) Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, James Levine. Sony
- 1994 Verdi: La forza del destino (Preziosilla) Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala, Riccardo Muti. EMI
- 1994 Verdi: Il trovatore (Azucena) Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, James Levine. Sony
- 1995 Massenet: Hérodiade (Hérodiade) San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Valery Gergiev. Sony
- 1996 Metropolitan Opera Gala: James Levine’s 25th Anniversary. Deutsche Grammophon
- 1998 Dvořák: Rusalka (Ježibaba) Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Charles Mackerras. Decca
- 1999 Dolora Zajick The art of the dramatic mezzo-soprano Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Charles Rosenkrans. Telarc
- 2014 Living Water: celebrating St Teresa of Avila's 500th Birthday (including Roads to Zion), CD available from Carmel of Reno website
- 2000 Verdi: Aida (Amneris) Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, James Levine. Deutsche Grammophon
- 2000 Verdi: Il trovatore (Azucena) Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, James Levine. Deutsche Grammophon
- 2005 Metropolitan Opera Gala: James Levine’s 25th Anniversary. Deutsche Grammophon
- 2010 Verdi: Don Carlo (Eboli) Teatro alla Scala Orchestra and Chorus, Daniele Gatti. Hardy Classic Video
- 2011 Verdi: Aida (Amneris) Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Daniele Gatti. Decca
- 2011 Verdi: Il trovatore (Azucena) Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Marco Armiliato. Deutsche Grammophon
- Email confirmation from Ms. Zajick, dated Jan 24, 2009, as reported on Opera List, at OPERA-L@LISTSERV.BCCLS.ORG
- Midgette, Anne (February 21, 2007). "A Mezzo-Soprano Who's Determined to Do It Her Way, With or Without Star Turns". The New York Times. Retrieved February 2, 2018.
- "Powerhouse. Mezzo Dolora Zajick Always Delivers," Matthew Gurewitsch, Opera News, March 1996.
- "That Rare Vocal Bird, a True Verdi Mezzo", The New York Times, February 11, 1990.
- Tommasini, Anthony (March 13, 2011). "Betting on Not-So-Sure Things: Love and a Trick to Win at Cards". The New York Times.
- Gregson, David (November 29, 2010). "Los Angeles Opera presents Wagner's Lohengrin". Opera West.
- Laura Furones. "What is in a name? Lohengrin at the Teatro Real in Madrid". www.bachtrack.com.
- review by Jose M. Irurzun. "Lohengrin Still Showing Mortier's Influence". seenandheard-international.com.
- "A chilling Dialogues of the Carmelites from Washington National Opera". DC Theatre Scene. 23 February 2015.
- "St. Teresa Honored in Dolora Zajick's Roads to Zion".
- "Opera Today : Dolora Zajick Premieres Composition". www.operatoday.com.
- "Home Page - Carmel of Reno". Carmel of Reno.
Media related to Dolora Zajick at Wikimedia Commons
- Official website
- The Institute for Young Dramatic Voices
- Interview with Dolora Zajick by Bruce Duffie, January 3, 1989 (Very early in her career)
- Interview with Terry Gross on NPR's "Fresh Air", 2014