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‘Julia Migenes Sings Kurt Weill’ at the Odyssey
Wednesdays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Nov. 18 – Dec. 19
LOS ANGELES (Oct. 19, 2015) — Celebrated mezzo-soprano Julia Migenes (Diva on the Verge) returns to the Odyssey Theatre with her newest show, once again directed by Academy Award-nominated director Peter Medak. Julia Migenes Sings Kurt Weill opens at the Odyssey Theatre on November 18, running Wednesdays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. for five weeks through December 19.
Paring things down to the bare essentials of voice and piano, Migenes takes the audience on a musical journey to the heart of Weill’s music, from Berlin to Paris to New York. Accompanied by Mitsuko Morikawa on piano, Migenes performs in the language of each “stopover” — German, French and English — exploring the work of this brilliant composer and the powerful lyrics that complement his music.
Migenes has a long history singing Weill, including her portrayal of Jenny Diver, opposite Raul Julia, in Mack the Knife, a 1990 feature film adaptation of The Threepenny Opera. She won an Edison Award for her performance on the CD version of The Seven Deadly Sins, conducted by Michael Tilsen Thomas, and she has sung Mahagonny at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
“Lotte Lenya herself came backstage after I performed Mahagonny and gave me a rose,” Migenes says. “That is one of my most precious memories.”
According to Migenes, her love of German music began as a young singer in Vienna at the Volksoper. “I’ve performed in Berlin, Munich and Hamburg, singing Bach, Mozart, Alban Berg, Schoenberg, Mahler, Shubert, Richard Strauss, Johan Strauss and Lehar,” she adds. “This is why I have such a close relationship with Weill, and why I prefer to sing his music in the original style and language.”
Kurt Weill (1900-1950) was a musical prodigy from a family of distinguished rabbis. He studied in Berlin, presented his first opera in 1926, and was acclaimed as a leading modernist composer. With left-wing poet Bertolt Brecht he developed a distinctive style of opera, integrating political material through popular song. In 1928 The Threepenny Opera, rife with jazz and blues and starring Weill’s wife, Lotte Lenya, was a sensation. Weill’s strident melodies captured the nihilism and corruption of 1920s Germany. Happy End (1929) produced “The Bilbao Song,” a hit in later years when translated by Johnny Mercer. Mahagonny, Weill and Brecht’s satire of capitalism set in a mythical American city, premiered in 1930 but was not seen in the U.S. until 1970; its “Alabama Song” is full of ribald humor and was recorded by The Doors. Weill and Lenya fled Germany for Paris in 1933, coming to America in 1935 – the same year the Nazis closed Weill’s last German production. A U.S. production of Threepenny Opera in 1933 flopped, but a successful revival (1954), with new lyrics by Marc Blitzstein, made a hit of “Mack the Knife” which won Grammies for Bobby Darin (1959) and Ella Fitzgerald (1960). In the U.S., Weill worked on a film history of the Jews and on an anti-war satire with the influential Group Theatre. Knickerbocker Holiday (1938) established Weill as a new force in American theater and captivated audiences with “September Song.” Lady in the Dark (1941, lyrics by Ira Gershwin) produced “My Ship,” and the musical comedy One Touch of Venus (1943, lyrics by Ogden Nash) gave us “Speak Low.” Weill’s last work, Lost in the Stars (1949), dealt with racial intolerance; its touching title song was adapted by Maxwell Anderson from Alan Paton’s book on South Africa, “Cry, the Beloved Country.”
Julia Migenes grew up in New York City, where she graduated from the prestigious High School of Music and Art. 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. Previously at the Odyssey, she has performed Diva on the Verge (2011) and Franz Schubert: His Letters and Music (2009), both directed by Peter Medak.
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
Mitsuko Morikawa had been working as a professional accompanist for over 14 years. Some of the artists she has performed with include Rod Gilfry (baritone), Kristinn Sigmundson (bass), Jim Walker (flute), Michel Debost (flute), Akiko Suwanai (violin), Martin Chalifour (violin), Timothy Mussard (tenor), Yoko Moore (violin), Megumi Kanda (trombone), Douglas Masek (sax) and Rodell Aure Rosel (tenor). She has recorded music for the New World Records label and has been featured on radio programs such as WCLV, Cleveland and NHK-FM, Japan. Mitsuko has degrees from USC (DMA, Keyboard Collaborative Arts), Cleveland Institute of Music (Professional Studies, Piano Performance), Manhattan School of Music (MM, Piano Performance) and Toho School of Music (BM, Piano Performance).
Lighting design for Julia Migenes Sings Kurt Weill is by Bosco Flanagan, and Beth Hogan produces.
Performances of Julia Migenes Sings Kurt Weill take place on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Nov. 18 through Dec. 19. Tickets are $30 on Wednesdays and $35 on Saturdays. 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.
Details for Calendar Listings
Julia Migenes Sings Kurt Weill
Julia Migenes Sings Kurt Weill — Paring things down to the bare essentials of voice and piano, celebrated mezzo-soprano Julia Migenes takes the audience on a musical journey to the heart of Kurt Weill’s music, from Berlin to Paris to New York. Accompanied by Mitsuko Morikawa on piano and directed by Academy Award-nominated director Peter Medak, Migenes performs in the language of each “stopover” — German, French and English — exploring the work of this brilliant composer and the powerful lyrics that complement his music.
Nov. 18–Dec. 19
• Wednesdays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 18, 25; Dec. 2, 9, 16
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 21, 28; Dec 5, 12, 19
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90025