Soprano Julia Migenes Returns to Odyssey with Musical Portrait of Claude Debussy
Celebrated soprano Julia Migenes returns to L.A. with the world premiere of her newest musical portrait of a great composer. Accompanied on piano by Manuel Arellano and directed by Academy Award-nominated director Peter Medak (The Ruling Class with Peter O' Toole), Migenes' Debussy: His Letters and His Music opens at the Odyssey Theatre on Feb. 10 for a three-week run.
Previously seen at the Odyssey in Diva on the Verge (2011), Franz Schubert: His Letters and Music (2009) and Julia Migenes Sings Kurt Weill (2015), the singer turns her attention to legendary French composer Claude Debussy. Her exploration of Debussy's life - his youth, his great wit and his battle with the more conservative musical world - begins with his actual letters, then integrates his music.
"I first heard Debussy's 'Clair de Lune' when I was around seven years old," says Migenes. "When I heard just the first four notes, I got a knot in my throat and tears in my eyes, his music touched me that deeply. As a teen, I started singing his 'ariettes oubliées.' They may have been called 'little forgotten arias,' but I simply could never forget them."
Embracing nontraditional scales and tonal structures, Claude Debussy is one of the most highly regarded composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is seen as the founder of musical impressionism. He was born into a poor family in France in 1862, but his obvious gift at the piano sent him to the Paris Conservatory at age 11. At age 22, he won the Prix de Rome, which financed two years of further musical study in the Italian capital. After the turn of the century, he established himself as the leading figure of French music. Debussy's seminal opera, Pelléas et Mélisande, was completed in 1895 and was a sensation when first performed in 1902, though it deeply divided listeners, who either loved it or hated it. The attention gained with Pelléas, paired with the previous success of Prélude in 1892, earned Debussy extensive recognition. Over the following 10 years, he was the leading figure in French music, writing such lasting works as La Mer (The Sea; 1905) and Ibéria (1908), both for orchestra, and Images (1905) and Children's Corner Suite (1908), both for solo piano. In 1905 he also published Suite bergamasque, which is comprised of four parts including "Clair de lune," perhaps the composer's best-known piece. During World War I, while Paris was being bombed by the German air force, he succumbed to colon cancer at the age of 55.
Julia Migenes grew up in New York City, where, as a teenager, she was chosen to sing in Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts, then starred as Hodel, opposite Zero Mostel, in the original Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof. Julia went on to sing at the Volksoper in Vienna, Austria, returning to the U.S. as a soloist in Metropolitan Opera productions of La Boheme, Pagliacci, Mahagonny and in the title role of Lulu by Alban Berg - a role known for its extreme difficulty. Her performance as Salome at the Grand Théatre in Geneva led to the starring role in Italian director Francesco Rosi's film version of Carmen, alongside Placido Domingo and Ruggiero Raimondi (César and David di Donatello Award nominations for best actress); the movie achieved cult status, and the soundtrack went on to win a Grammy Award. She has toured throughout Europe and recorded over 30 CDs and DVDs. Her awards include the Edison Classical Music Award; two Golden Bambies; and Golden Lion, Golden Camera and Golden Microphone Awards.
Manuel Arellano has worked throughout the U.S. as a soloist, collaborative pianist, vocal coach and musical director. He has appeared in concert throughout Europe and, most recently, in Cuba, collaborating with orchestras, six-time Grammy-winner Daniel Ho and The Los Angeles Young Men's Ensemble. Manuel has been a recipient of numerous scholarships during his undergraduate education at the Cole Conservatory in California and also at the University of Michigan, where he recently completed his Master's degree in collaborative piano and vocal coaching with the legendary Martin Katz. He is currently a collaborative pianist and vocal coach at El Camino College.
Peter Medak is an internationally acclaimed film director whose credits include Negatives with Glenda Jackson (her first film), A Day in the Death of Joe Egg starring Alan Bates and Janet Suzman, and The Ruling Class starring Peter O' Toole, for which he received an Academy Award nomination. A sampling of the numerous other films he has directed includes The Krays (England's Evening Standard Award for best director), Let Him Have It, Romeo is Bleeding and The Men's Club. In addition, he has directed numerous plays, miniseries and films for television as well as operas and stage productions. Recent credits include Hannibal for NBC; Hand of God for Amazon; The Ghost of Peter Sellers (in post production); and The Dating Game Killer (Discovery Channel).
The creative team for Debussy: His Letters and His Music includes lighting designer Bosco Flanagan and script consultant Jessica Allegra. The stage manager is Jennifer Palumbo, and Beth Hogan produces for Odyssey Theatre Ensemble.
Performances of Debussy: His Letters and His Music take place Feb. 10 through Feb. 25 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.All tickets are $35. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. in West L.A., 90025. For reservations call (310) 477-2055 or go to www.OdysseyTheatre.com.