Julia Migenes Sings Kurt Weill Review - A Musical Odyssey at the Odyssey

The Odyssey Theatre hosts soprano Julia Migenes as a Christmas treat for theater-goers. Best known for the role of Carmen opposite Placido Domingo in the 1984 film of the same name, Migenes’ voice and fiery presentation remain just as crisp, clear, and memorable in 2015. Despite her warning the audience that she will be using her “cabaret voice” as she sings works by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, her range of both song and emotion are striking and moving. The setting is intimate, and the staging is minimal - one piano, three wooden boxes, and a ladder. Migenes and pianist Mitsuko Morikawa are clothed entirely in black. Even with her mop of tawny curls, Migenes keeps all distractions to a minimum as she focuses single-mindedly on the emotional messages beneath the songs. In keeping with a low-key setting, she begins the show by moving the boxes around to set the “stage” and, at one point, flits off-stage to find a few missing tunes.

 

 

Julia Migenes - Photo by Enci Box

 

Migenes prefaces her song list with some warm and off-the-cuff allusions to her ten years living in Vienna and her life-long love affair with the works of Weill and Brecht. She casually delivers quotations which serve as an appetizer for the musical main course: 

 

“Art is not a mirror which reflects reality; it should be a hammer which shapes reality.”  

 

“Music must clash with words so you can hear and be drawn to what is written.”  

 

“Don’t hang up your brain with your hat in the cloakroom.”

 

 

Julia Migenes and Mitsuko Morikawa - Photo by Enci Box

 

Migenes has chosen an interesting variety of music, with selections from “The Threepenny Opera (1928),” “Mahagonny (1930),” ”Happy End (1929),” and “Knickerbocker Holiday (1938).” She sings in German, French, and English - with an emphasis on German. But perhaps sings is a poor description of her performance: she feels and emotes with voice and body language her chosen themes - often rather topical, surprising given the time period in which they were conceived and written: “Brecht is very modern...he’s talking about the one percent, which is very now.” Even without an understanding of the language, the meaning becomes clear. However, a few more songs in English might have met with approval by the largely English-speaking audience.

 

 

Julia Migenes - Photo by Enci Box

 

Director Peter Medak maintains an intimate, cabaret style, while Bosco Flanagan’s lighting punctuates the simple staging. Accompanist Mitsuko Morikawa does an admirable job of adding to Migenes’ vocal interpretations.

 

 

Julia Migenes - Photo by Enci Box

 

JULIA MIGENES SINGS KURT WEILL runs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays through December 19, 2015. The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble is located at 2055 South Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90035. Tickets are $30 (Wednesday) and $35 (Saturday). For tickets, call 310-477-2055 extension 2 or go online at [email protected].

 

 

 

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