DEBUSSY: His Letters and His Music by Carol Kaufman Segal
Illustrious soprano, Julia Migenes, is performing in a world premiere of her latest musical portrait of the renowned French composer, Claude Debussy, at the Odyssey Theatre. Debussy (b. 1862) and his younger contemporary, Maurice Ravel (b. 1875), are considered the creators of the musical style of impressionism.
Claude Debussy was born in France to a poor family. He was the eldest of five children. When he was 11 years old, he began studying piano at the Paris Conservatory, where he was recognized as a child prodigy. He began to study composition when he was 18 years old, and at the age of 22, he won the important Prix de Rome. He flourished in every field of music including opera.
Julia Migenes grew up in New York. She was chosen to sing in Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts when she was a teenager. She then starred as Hodel in the original Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof. She has performed in many operas here and throughout Europe, and has recorded over 30 CDs and DVDs. She is the recipient of many awards for her outstanding work.
As Migenes reads from his letters, it is obvious that Debussy was a scoundrel when it came to women. He had numerous affairs, some with married women. He finally married, but unfortunately, his first wife, Lilly Texier, attempted suicide when he abandoned her for a married woman, singer Emma Bardac. He eventually married Bardac and they had a daughter. Unfortunately, Debussy died of colon cancer at the early age of 55.
Migenes strolls around the stage, lounges on the piano, and sometimes relaxes on a settee as she reads letters written by Debussy, interposing them with information regarding his life. She barely allows herself to sing during the performance, and had she done more, I believe it would have made her performance more enlightening. I kept hoping to hear more of her beautiful singing voice.
The high point of the production is the wonderful piano accompaniment provided by Manuel Arellano who performs music by Debussy, Rossini, Cesar Franck, Johann Sebation Bach, Frederic Chopin, Richard Wagner, and Carl Czerny as background music throughout the performance.
Debussy: His Letters and His Music is directed by Peter Medak. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, through March 25, at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. For reservations, call (310) 477-2055, or go online at www.OdysseyTheatre.com.