Prestige issue 287-288, Dec. Janv. 2017-2018
As soon as it was announced, the Good News spread like wildfire, making the front page of Lebanese and international newspapers and magazines. The author, composer, performer, pianist and actor of 34 years, Mike Massy plays the role of Jesus in the musical fresco «Jesus, from Nazareth to Jerusalem» at the Palais des Sports in Paris. A great adventure, a guaranteed success and especially a beautiful end for 2017 for the versatile artist who continues to realize his dreams. Since his first Christian song broadcasted on the radio during his adolescence in Lebanon, until the main role of Jesus in Paris … Another good news that he announced to Prestige, the Christmas concert he will celebrate on December 18 at the Basilica of Maghdouché. Mike Massy, you’ll be our best Christmas present.
«The role of Jesus is a unique chance in the life of an artist»
Mike Massy, you play Jesus in the musical fresco «Jesus from Nazareth to Jerusalem» by Pascal Obispo and Christophe Barratier. How did this adventure begin? One morning, I received a phone call from Bruno Berberes, one of the best-known casting directors in France, whom I call «talent hunter», to tell me that Pascal Obispo listened to my oriental version of Nat King Cole’s «Nature Boy», that he likes what I’m doing, and that he’s looking for an artist who can interpret the role of Jesus in his new musical. Once I showed my interest in this subject, Pascal Obispo and Christophe Barratier invited me for voice and acting tests in Pascal’s studio in Paris. The tests took place for more or less a year and a half. They wanted to be sure that the chosen person could not only carry the role thoroughly, but also the whole project.
Mike Massy is your stage name … your real name is Michael el Massih … Do you believe in destiny? Bearing the name El Massih has always been «original», since I was often asked if it was my real name, whereas now with the musical fresco Jesus, it becomes almost better known than my stage name. If I believe in destiny? I do not know, but I can tell you that «all roads lead to Rome».
Did you have an apprehension to accept the role of Jesus? A role that comes with a lot of responsibility … Obviously, when I knew that the role was that of Jesus, I asked myself questions. After so many years of work, we build a certain notoriety and we certainly do not want to disappoint those who have followed us for years. But I found the answer to all my questions when I remembered why I chose this job. I chose it because I like adventures, and Jesus is one of the largest and most beautiful.
Did you fear a controversy around this role and this musical? Before joining this role, I made sure that the musical fresco was faithful to the Bible. This show is about history and not about religion, but it still respects religion, and that’s what counts.
How do you get prepared for this kind of role? What was the biggest difficulty? Reading the text and discussing it with the director would not have been enough to prepare for this role, there is a personal work to do. I had to prepare myself vocally, physically, psychologically and morally. It’s like we’re at the Olympics. Singing every night at the Palais des Sports in front of 4,500 people is not an easy task to perform. I prepared myself vocally and physically. And then there remains the psychological part and depth of the character, for which it took a crazy job: I had to reread the Gospels, review movies, contemplate icons. It is indeed a rather complex role to play. It is necessary to be in a perfect restraint from the beginning to the end of the show, taking care not to overplay the icon of Christ deeply implanted in the collective unconscious.
What added value did the role of Jesus of Nazareth bring you on a personal level? A role like this is a unique chance in an artist’s life. It is one of the most beautiful roles of humanity. Reading and knowing the story do not have the same effect as playing the action. There are several scenes that touch me immensely and whose message goes beyond my daily life. For example, the scene of the first stone between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is a lesson in forgiveness and healing that upsets me and I can not help thinking about it every time I find myself in a situation where we judge each other. In short, it is obvious that playing the role of Christ does not go unnoticed in my personal life.
Is this role a turning point in your career? Without a doubt, playing the title role in a musical was a childhood dream, and here it comes true. Being exposed to the media and the French public is a new adventure in my career. Working with Pascal Obispo and Christophe Barratier is a great experience. It is indeed a huge turning point in my musical career, as well as in my career as an actor and I believe that it is a step that will have a positive influence on my international career.
«The scene of the first stone between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is a lesson in forgiveness and healing that upsets me …»
You are a versatile artist. Author, composer, performer, pianist and actor … What link do you establish between these different disciplines? Of course, each of these disciplines is a profession in itself. I have never pretended to say that I practice them all wonderfully, but I feel the need to attach myself to each of these disciplines that constitute my personality. Playing the piano is like caressing space, and making love with words is like singing them loudly, so why not want all these wonders? And since I’m also a producer, it’s perfectly normal to want to encompass all these disciplines, so that my work can reflect my identity. I have always admired artists who write their own songs, and who self-produce.
What is success for Mike Massy? I believe in goodwill, in continuous work and I also believe that things happen at the right time. And then the most important thing is gratitude. This is the real success.
You will be in Lebanon for your Christmas concert on Monday, December 18th at the Basilica of Maghdouche. Why is this concert and this church so important to you? Making this round trip will certainly exhaust me physically, but there is nothing better than meeting the public who has supported me since the beginning of my career. Singing in Lebanon is like seeing my family and reconnecting with my sources. I have always loved Christmas songs, it’s reassuring. As for Maghdouché, I have heard a lot about this magical place, and I cannot wait to discover it.
What are you preparing for this concert? The repertoire includes traditional Christmas carols, songs from my own repertoire, as well as songs from the musical fresco composed by Pascal Obispo. The NDU choir will be honored under the direction of Father KhalilRahme. The repertoire is varied and has some surprises.
In an interview with Prestige in 2012, you told us about a particularly musical childhood … What memories do you keep from the Christmas of your childhood? What does Christmas represent to you? How are you celebrating it this year? Decorating the tree with my sisters and my parents. I miss unsophisticated Christmas trees,colorful balls and garlands. Christmas pastries made at home. Moments spent with cousins. The inimitable voice of Fairouz singing “TaljTalj”, the thin St Nicolas in the street, etc. These are memories that will never fade from my head. This year I will not be able to go to Lebanon for the holidays, since I play on the 24th at the Palais des Sports, but I will go to Brussels, the city I cherish, to spend a warm Christmas with my uncle and aunt.
What are your wishes for this Christmas? On this Christmas, I wish to see my family and friends happy, healthy and well surrounded. And I wish to never see people in the street, it breaks my heart.
What are your resolutions for the new year? Release my album in Arabic, and start making a new album in French. Going back to sport, and learn how to cook healthy. But above all else look for other adventures on new shores.
A message to our readers during this holiday season? Enjoy your families and your holidays. And especially, stick to our beautiful Christmas traditions! Otherwise for New Year’s Day: “Do not drink and drive”. May these holidays bring you happiness and peace of heart. And do not forget to think about those who can not live the holidays in good conditions. Interview by Maria Nadim
Mike Massy, in a few words …
Have you been good this year? Yes.
Your gift list to Santa? To be surrounded by
those I love.
To what sin you easily give yourself to? My mother’s cakes.
A miracle that you would like to be able to accomplish?
Peace in Lebanon!
The main trait of your character? Perseverance.
Your main fault? Impatience.
What do you hate above all? Hypocrisy.
Your current state of mind? Submerged…
What fault inspires you the most indulgence? Anger.
The one you can not forgive? I do not know…
Your motto? Happiness!
Photographer: Thibault Grabherr
Stylist: Marie Revelut
Assistant photographer: Mona Boitière
Assistant stylist: Mario Lollia
Hairdresser: Jacques Uzzardi
Coordination: Céline Hitti
Thanks to La Réserve Paris – Hotel & Spa
for his warm welcome.