Interview with Angelina Réaux
Bodhi Tree Concerts: (We are a little star struck.) You have worked directly with Leonard Bernstein. Can you share some memories or experiences that stand out for you - working with such a cultural icon?
Angelina Réaux: I'd already worked with Leonard Bernstein on his recording of WEST SIDE STORY and in his opera A QUIET PLACE when he came to Milwaukee and saw me perform in an evening of his music entitled BERNSTEIN REVIEWED. Following the performance at the cast party, we sat together and he offered me the role of Mimi in LA BOHEME which was going to be performed in Rome, recorded for Deutsche Grammaphon and televised throughout Europe. I was truly flattered but of course didn't believe him as I'd never sung Mimi or even sung a role in Italian. He insisted that he meant it. The next morning I phoned my manager in New York and told him of Lenny's offer. He didn't believe me and I remember he said to me 'this isn't Hollywood.' Not too much later he called me back and said 'This IS Hollywood--Lenny wants you for his Mimi.'
Lenny decided to introduce me to the public as his new Mimi at a big gala concert for AMFAR at the Public Theatre in New York City. My fellow performers included Linda Ronstadt, Aaron Neville, Marilyn Horne, Bernadette Peters, Kevin Kline, Eileen Farrell, Isaac Stern, Marvin Hamlisch and Hildegard Behrens. Together we chose two Kurt Weill songs for me to sing for which he accompanied me at the piano.
One of the fun outings we had in Rome was a visit to the Sistine Chapel. Lenny arranged it so we could view the chapel when no one else was there. I remember all of us laying on the floor staring up at Michelangelo's ceiling and thinking to myself how blessed I was.
One of the most important moments I shared with him was at the cast party after Boheme--sitting next to him, we shared a plate of food and he told me that I could accomplish anything, that I should always be true to myself and never to let anyone put me in a box.
My last memory of him was several months before he died. I went to visit him at his apartment at the Dakota where he coached me on many of the songs I'll be singing on this program. When he opened the door to greet me, he pulled a review from the Boston Globe of my recent performance in Boston. He had underlined all the praise in red--he was so proud of me
BTC: Talk to us about the music our audiences will hear at the concert? What do you find that makes Bernstein's music special
AR: In addition to a set of four songs he wrote for PETER PAN, we will be singing much of his classical song literature and arias. A good amount of the lyrics are by Bernstein himself, others are taken from first rate poets, from Gertrude Stein to Rilke to Ferlinghetti. One song, Little Smary, has lyrics by his mother Jenny Bernstein. The songs are interwoven by Lenny's piano pieces entitled THIRTEEN ANNIVERSARIES--thirteen individual compositions that he wrote as gifts for his friends and family.
His music is so uniquely recognizable, his rhythms are angular jazzy and infectious. As a singing actress, performing his music is both a challenge and a joy. He can write so simply and directly with innocence and charm like in his 'Who Am I?' from PETER PAN and then with such sophisticated majesty as in his 'To What You Said' from SONGFEST!
AR: First of all my husband, Michael Sokol, and I love working together because we trust each other. Yet we are so different when we do work together. He is very private as he prepares, only asking for input at the end of his process. I'm extremely open from the beginning–- I love his input and support as he is a first rate musician and linguist. I think he comes to me to to find the soul of the song. I work more on an emotional level, while he works more technically at first
BTC: What Bernstein do you most LOVE to sing?
AR: What are my favorites? Too many to mention
BTC: What is your Favorite charitable organization
AR: Whiskers Tails and Ferals in Napa CA CLICK HERE
BTC: What is your favorite local restaurant?
AR: Havana Grill, Clairemont CLICK HERE