Julia Migenes was born as Julia Mouzianakis on the Lower East Side of New York into a family made up of a passionate mixture of Greek and Irish-Puerto-Rican descent. Despite a difficult and violent childhood, she discovered her calling upon engagement of the child role in Madame Butterfly where she first experienced the power and the emotion of music linked to a stage setting.
A few years later, while studying at the New York School for Performing Arts, she was chosen by Leonard Bernstein to be a soloist in his "Young People's Concerts". She began her Broadway career as a teenager, replacing Anna Maria Alberghetti in Carnival!, soon thereafter played Maria in a City Center revival of West Side Story, and followed that with a portrayal of Hodel in the original cast of Fiddler on the Roof (1964) – the longest-running musical on Broadway at the time – with Zero Mostel.
Migenes then went to Vienna, sang in German in the chorus at the Theater an der Wien, and took the role of Maria in the German version of West Side Story at the Volksoper in 1968. Since then, she has spent much of her time in Europe. She moved to Munich in the 1970s and became a star of operetta, film, and television, winning many awards. She married Jervis Johnson and had a child, and for many years was billed as Julia Migenes-Johnson.
While on stage in Geneva as Salomé, the Italian film director Francesco Rosi was casting for his up and coming film: Carmen. The lead role required not only an opera singer and dancer but also an actress sensual enough to personify the burning passion of Bizet's character. The result was Julia Migenes immortalized in a motion picture that has since become a reference in the filmed opera genre. The soundtrack not only brought her a Grammy Award but even more worldwide notoriety that allowed her to access the greatest theaters in the world.
To this day, Julia Migenes has recorded more than 20 albums of various music genres.
Julia Mingenes performing Carmen in the homonymous movie.