Diva on the Verge

Diva on the Verge

In her compelling one-woman show, soprano Julia Migenes, who has sung more leading roles at more opera houses than you've had hot dinners, offers a solo show that is a true-life analog of Terrence McNally's play Master Class. However, Migenes is the real thing — a bona fide, card-carrying prima donna of the larger-than-life school — and the story of her life in art is both lighthearted and unpretentious, simultaneously celebrating opera and sending it up. For all her operatic pedigree, which includes the renowned 1984 film version of Carmen with Placido Domingo, Migenes cleverly positions herself here as an "anti-opera" opera star, with a narrative patter (credited to her and Bruce Vilanch) that spoofs various operatic traditions, while still dazzling us with renditions of the arias themselves. Thus, Migenes dons a goofy white shroud to comically satirize the over-the-top libretto of the madness scene from Lucia di Lammermoor at the same time her gorgeous coloratura rendering of the song is perfect. She jokes about the ridiculous death scenes from La Traviata and Tristan and Isolde, even as her voice hauntingly conveys the genuine feeling of the music's heightened realism. Credited to director Travis Preston, the show first played here 10 years ago; since then, the piece has evolved into a lighter, breezier work that emphasizes folksy general opera stories over Migenes' actual biography, which would frankly be welcome. When she's telling her story, Migenes exudes a sultry sophistication and a dry wit; when she sings (accompanied by Victoria Kirsch's excellently evocative piano playing), she's every bit the diva she purports to be, making this a unique and captivating experience. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m. (no perfs Dec. 24-25, Dec. 31, Jan. 6), through Jan. 9. (310) 477-2055.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Dec. 17. Continues through Jan. 9, 2010