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Migenes-johnson In Pop And Classical Program

January 20, 1986|LEWIS SEGAL | Times Staff Writer

There aren't many singers who can give idiomatic performances of both Mimi in "La Boheme" and Morales in "A Chorus Line," but Julia Migenes- Johnson certainly qualifies.

In a benefit program for the Religious Freedom Crusade, Saturday at the Beverly Theatre, the American soprano ventured everything from opera (an affecting, beautifully modulated "Donde lieta usci" from "Boheme") and operetta (a secure, if hard-edged csardas from "Die Fledermaus") to an outrageous punk-rock parody, variable Broadway ballads and a rambling vocal autobiography.

Best known for the 1984 film of "Carmen," Migenes-Johnson is gifted with a small voice of impressive range and strength, plus exciting dramatic instincts. But much of the time Saturday she seemed more intent on displaying versatility than excellence, on showing a lot of leg and even more chest, on reveling recklessly in her celebrity in front of a star-studded audience.

Forget consistency: Accompanied alternately by pianist Bruno Fontaine and an 18-piece pop orchestra, she was able to project an intimate humming vocalise without amplification, yet relied on a microphone and a noisy sound system to put over the full-voiced bravado of musical-comedy show-stoppers.

Similarly, she could offer both a ravishing--and impeccable--performance of Gershwin's "My Man's Gone Now" and a dismal one--emotionally overwrought and vocally uneven--of "But Not for Me" by the same composer. Throughout, she ricocheted alarmingly between her proven identity as a charismatic artist and the adopted role of comic stunt-singer.

At one point she even sang the "Fledermaus" Laughing Song on roller skates. No, she didn't attempt the "Liebestod" while drinking a glass of water and juggling bowling pins, but just give her time.

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