Diva on the Verge

Auckland Town Hall, Auckland

03/08/2007 - 03/08/2007

Production Details

Created and performed by Julia MIgenes


THE EDGE presents Julia Migenes in Diva on the Verge at the Auckland Town Hall, THE EDGE, on Friday 3 August as the inaugural show in THE EDGE International Arts Season 2007.

American soprano Julia Migenes takes a cheeky peek behind the scenes of the international opera world in her one-woman show Diva on the Verge in Auckland in August for one night only.

Revelling in both the beauty and absurdity of one of the West’s most highly evolved and highly acclaimed genres of performance, Diva on the Verge provides an uproariously funny and intimate behind-the-scenes tour of international opera.

Julia Migenes guides the audience through the arcane mysteries of the diva’s art with arch monologues and anecdotes, interspersed with some of the greatest arias in the repertoire.

“Usually by the end of the evening there have been enough laughs that the audience feels ready to go to the opera,” says Julia of her show.

Born on the Lower East Side of New York into a family made up of a passionate mixture of Greek and Irish-Puerto Rican descent, Julia had her first role as a child in Madame Butterfly where she experienced the power and the emotion of music linked to a stage setting.

She began her Broadway career playing Hodel in the original cast of Fiddler on The Roof, sang Berg’s Lulu at the Met, Tosca in London, Bernstein’s Maria in New York and Salome in Puerto Rico … and was on the road to a glittering career.

She won a Grammy Award for her portrayal of Carmen in Francesco Rosi’s hugely successful film, which also starred opera tenor Placido Domingo, and the greatest theatres in the world opened the doors for her… but Julia was bored.

One evening, by accident she happened to glance at her watch while singing a sustained top C at a gala evening ” the audience laughed and loved the naturalness of her performance.

She wrote her one-woman show Diva on the Verge, mingling monologue and opera, often mocking its rigid world and revealing her daring wit and sense of humour. The show has toured throughout Europe and in the US and now Julia brings her sparkle to New Zealand.

Julia Migenes performs Diva on the Verge at the Auckland Town Hall, THE EDGE, Auckland on Friday 3 August. She also performs her show as part of the Christchurch and Taranaki arts festivals. Tickets are available from Ticketek 0800 TICKETEK or www.ticketek.co.nz

THE EDGE International Arts Season 2007 includes the Royal Shakespeare Company’s seasons of King Lear and The Seagull, Miriam Margolyes in Dickens’ Women and Complexions Contemporary Ballet.

Starring Julia Migenes

Theatre , Music , Solo ,

Some things best left a mystery?

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 06th Aug 2007

In Diva on the Verge, “opera star, New Yorker and total Diva” Julia Migenes promises to transform the mystery surrounding the world of opera, in a light, and joking way, while at the same time performing music from the genre she has been working in professionally for decades.

And so the juxtaposition of talent and cheek unfolds. Predictably, there are personal anecdotes shared between arias, as well as some intriguing stage directions from Puccini.

However, devoid of a strong director’s hand and left in the hands of a polite raconteur instead, (and one who doesn’t quite converse with her audience at the pace or with the skill and wit of a world class stand up comedienne), Diva On the Verge falls short of providing a night of continuous entertainment.

The majority in the audience (opera enthusiasts I suspect) enjoyed the performance and showed their appreciation in the usual manner, however.

From my perspective, having already seen the unstoppable Helen Medlyn de-mystify opera in some of her humorous intimate shows, and having watched Theatresports games such as “translator” since the 1980’s, I found Migenes’ unveiling of her premise not only lacking in uniqueness, but a bit “one-note” by the end.

I think the premise is out of date. With sur-titles, programme notes, interviews, previews, documentaries and the internet all available for interested folk to research to their heart’s content, plus cross-over artists and multi-genre concerts both available to a wide audience on a regular basis, opera is no longer shrouded in mystery as it once was.

Perhaps I would’ve felt more engaged if my evening with Migenes was hosted in more intimate surrounds, where I might have felt close up and personal, as she shared some gossip from behind the scenes of great opera companies throughout the world. Certainly some of her asides and subtleties were lost on me, as I sat in the circle of the Auckland Town Hall.

While not without some humorous moments, such as Migenes’ deconstruction of the diva that would not die, through her featured aria Air De Violetta from Verdi’s La Traviata, which is well timed and well performed, other aspects of the show, such as the rearranging of the furniture as the pianist took the limelight, slowed the evening down unnecessarily. At least the long passages from Tosca were in the hands of consummate accompanist, Victoria Kirsch.

Script-wise, Migenes could have been more merciless and unforgiving, ripping into opera’s many peculiarities. She has some good lines – commenting that if Lucia di Lammermoor‘s murder had happened in LA they would have be acquitted – got a big laugh for example. And while the age and description of most composer’s young heroines, compared to the reality and girth of most Divas got a thorough lashing, other oddities specific to the world of opera, such as humidifiers, she chose not to comment on. I thought the hidden machine, bubbling away behind the piano, would have been ripe for humour.

My ears, while not tuned to the finer techniques of opera, picked up that while Migenes had a few intonation issues early in the performance, she sings very well. During more than one of her featured arias, she transports me to another place, through the simple beauty of opera.

Maybe – unless you have the comic genius and commitment to totally unravel that which you seek to make light of – some things are best left a mystery.


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