Los Angeles Music Preview: DEBUSSY: HIS LETTERS AND HIS MUSIC (Julia Migenes at the Odyssey Theatre)

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by Tony Frankel on February 1, 2017

in Music,Theater-Los Angeles


With astounding chromatic structure and continually shifting tonalities and rhythms, Debussy’s music has always mystified and transported me. Certainly many are familiar with “Clair de Lune” a piece from the piano composition Suite bergamasque; La Mer, a unique mix of tone poem and symphony; and Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (“Prelude to Afternoon of a Faun”), an evocative ballet from 1894.

But there are many other exquisite works. Debussy wrote during La Belle Époque, a period characterized by optimism, regional peace, economic prosperity and technological, scientific and cultural innovations. It was also the zenith of the French salon period, when it was fashionable to hear songs, piano trios, etc. in private homes. Debussy’s string quartets can be heard regularly among chamber outfits, but rarely is there a chance to hear Ariettes oubliées (“forgotten arias”). Originally composed between 1885 and 1887, and revised and published in 1903, this song cycle for voice and piano is based on a poem written by Paul Verlaine. Debussy’s wandering and intriguing twists in melody and harmony float and shimmer expressively and sweetly.

These songs demand to be heard in an intimate setting. Fortunately, the great soprano and Broadway actress Julia Migenes is returning to L.A. with the world premiere of her newest musical portrait Debussy: His Letters and His Music, which opens at the Odyssey Theatre on Feb. 10, 2017, for a three-week run.

Migenes, accompanied on piano by Manuel Arellano, will explore Debussy’s life—his youth, his great wit and his battle with the more conservative musical world—by integrating his actual letters with his beautiful works, including songs from Ariettes oubliées. And, of course, Migenes will sing in French, just as she offered impeccable German in her wonderful 2015 tribute to Kurt Weill.

photos from previous shows by Enci Box

Debussy: His Letters and His Music
Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd
Fri and Sat at 8, beginning February 10, 2017
ends February 25, 2017 EXTENDED to March 11, 2017
for tickets ($35), call 310.477.2055 ext. 2 or visit Odyssey Theatre

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