The definition of diva can range from a woman blessed with great musical talents to one cursed with a difficult or demanding nature. Both ends of that spectrum have been applied to Patti LuPone.
The Broadway star drops in at the Palace of Fine Arts on Tuesday for a City Arts & Lectures chat with Steve Winn and possibly a few songs. The subject of the evening — rescheduled from an event canceled last fall — is LuPone and her life and times as chronicled in her recent memoir.
“It was a great release,” she says of the writing. “It healed some scars and it opened up some scars.”
There’s no doubt LuPone has had an interesting career. The 61-year-old New York-born actress got her start in the ’70s with John Houseman’s esteemed The Acting Company.
She scored the first of five musical Tony Award nominations in 1976 for “The Robber Bridegroom.” The same year she stalled in a Broadway-bound production of “The Baker’s Wife” that played the Curran among its few bookings before closing on the road.
Her first great triumph came as Eva Peron in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita,” described by LuPone as “the worst experience of my life.” She leveled much criticism at Lloyd Webber but it did not stop her from collaborating with him again on “Sunset Boulevard” in London in the early 1990s.
After a successful opening, she famously sued him for yanking the role in the Broadway production from her in favor of Faye Dunaway — who had it yanked from her in favor Glenn Close. Dunaway also sued and both cases settled out of court and into silence.
LuPone’s fiery professional relationships almost kept her from her second Tony Award, won for the revival of “Gypsy” in 2008. “It’s in the past,” is what she said recently about her alleged feud with author Arthur Laurents that had him vetoing LuPone as Rose in any New York revivals of his show.
“It wasn’t about us not getting on well,” she said at the time. “It had to do me not doing one of his plays. The negotiations [for that show] started so late and it was a take-it-or-leave-it offer and I left it. I think Arthur blamed me for that. But, times have changed.”
Most recently, LuPone starred in the short-lived musical version of “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” She regularly tours the country in a collection of themed concert evenings.
IF YOU GO
Where: Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Contact: (415) 392-4400, www.cityarts.net