Joy and sadness abound in Julia Migenes’ farewell performances now playing at Odyssey Theatre. The joy comes from her effervescent bond with her audience, her easy manner and spontaneity, her wit, and of course her voice, sa voix, with which she can do anything. The catalog of choice French songs she performs with joy, passion, and absolute mastery of her vocal power, tends toward the side of tristesse, leavened with whit and irony. It took no time at all for my heart to heave and my eyes to moisten with her first number, “Mon Homme” (“My Man”), a song made popular in America by Fanny Brice, and covered later by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl. She followed it up with one of my favorite Edith Piaf numbers, “Milord,” a rollicking, mostly cheerful number in which a girl of the streets (“un hombre de la rue”) tries to jolly up a guy who has lost his love. She delivers heart wrenching songs of love and loss by Charles Aznavour, Léo Ferré, Jacques Brel, and Michel Legrand. A solo performance of “A Man and a Woman” (“Un Homme et Une Femme”) by accompanist Victoria Kirsch brought back wistful memories of a lost time (temps perdu).
Ms. Migenes has one of the easiest relationships with an audience that I have ever seen. She loves them and they love her. She sips water from a glass on a stool, as every vocalist must. When her nose started to run a bit, she begged a tissue from the audience. I tried to give her mine, but she didn’t see me. Damn! Before and in between songs, she relates quite a lot of her personal experiences as a world traveling opera soprano and especially her time in Paris. Her take on singing in Alban Berg’s atonal masterpiece, Lulu, is outrageously hilarious. In fact, her cheerful self-deprecating humor abounds throughout the all-too-short evening. And she is a slinky, sinuous dancer as well.
Ms. Migenes is well served by director Peter Medak, and especially by Ms. Kirsch at the piano, who adjusts to every nuance of the singer’s performance. She also benefits from the talents of scenic designer Chris Bell; lighting designer, Bosco Flanagan; and sound designer, Christopher Moscatiello. And stage manager Jacob Price is with her all the way.
I fell for her big back in 2015 in Julia Migenes Sings Kurt Weill, admired her Debussy: His Letters and His Music in 2017, and now I hope against hope that La Vie en Rose isn’t really the last time I get to applaud her.
Produced by Beth Hogan and presented by Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, Ron Sossi, artistic director, La Vie en Rose, runs through December 14 at Odyssey Theatre 2055 S. Sepulveda Boulevard in Los Angeles.