Debussy: His Letters and His Music

by Dale Reynolds

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday February 16, 2017

Julia Migenes and Manuel Arellano
Julia Migenes and Manuel Arellano  

Mezzo-soprano Julia Migenes is known for her fine singing voice, gorgeous speaking voice, and her acting chops. She is also well-known in Southern California for her musical erudition, including the lives of her composer-heroes.

Now in her late 60s, she shows a fine figure and no loss of her operatic talents. Her show on Kurt Weill a couple of years back was a success as she truly owned the music of Weill and the lyrics of Bertolt Brecht (and others). Her latest show, "Debussy: His Letters and His Music" on the influence of Claude Debussy on Western music, is less successful, albeit valuable to the uninitiated.

Neither an academic lecture, nor an in-depth exploration of the work of M. Debussy, it does show off her fine voice, although she didn't work her singing voice as much as we might have liked, as her repertoire of his songs weren't dramatic enough to sustain interest (she only sings four, including one by Rossini.)

Migenes was more than ably assisted on the piano by Manuel Arellano, whose crisp renditions of the music (excerpts from Wagner, Bach, Chopin and Czerny), as well as his strong support of Migenes' singing was solidly professional, and dominated without any showiness.

Director Peter Medak kept the action on the simple stage to a minimum with Migenes climbing up on piano to sing, and reading from notes (a major distraction) as well as from Debussy's letters.

It's a curious evening, enlightening at times, and always a delight when she is the focus, but as a play or concert, is isn't. Pity, that, as one can't help but be edified when an artist of her caliber shares the work with us.

"Debussy: His Letters and His Music" runs through February 25 at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Ave, Los Angeles, 90025. For tickets or information, call 310-477-2055 or visit