The Mexican group Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes is led by Claudio Valdés Kuri, one of the most important directors in Latin America. Their grotesque and mildly anarchistic production of De Monstruos y Prodigios relates the 250 year-old history of the castrati, those divinely beautiful voices that were once so loved and that belonged to young men who had been castrated before puberty.
"There was a time when beauty was the highest value. It was considered a divine gift, and there were no limits in its search. In the 18th century the castrati, those sacred monsters, those children whose voices were surgically moulded, represented the summit of artistic sublimation," said Claudio Valdés Kuri in a press statement. "Monsters and Prodigies is a play that talks about the development, plenitude and decadence of the history of the castrati. This is a story of reflection and, at the same time, it refers to three centuries of human thoughts and action. We go from the succulent extremes of the Baroque to the beginnings of the technological 20th century."
The piece’s ringmasters are the Siamese twins Jean Paré, a barber and surgeon, and Ambroise, an opera critic. Opposite them is Galuppi, a master virtuoso on the harpsichord, a tenor and a ridiculously bourgeois man. Also in the ring is one of the few modern castrati, the Eastern eunuch Sulayman, the centaur Quiron and a horse.
Through recapitulation of History, we accompany the barber-surgeon Jean-Ambroise Paré in a journey towards the splendour of the Baroque art. The play is a mosaic that gathers several of the extravagances of this outstanding and enigmatic period of Art History. The presence of the castrati in the Italian opera, the Baroque dance, the tales and superstitions related to monsters, in a feast of scenes that give form to this scenic altarpiece.
The labyrinths of the play explore the peripeteias or vicissitudes and adventures of the castrati, their romances and whims; the turbulent affairs they had with the composers and theatre managers. All this in a polyphonic structure, which alternates scenes, musical arias and interludes, through a Churrigueresque structuring formula: theatre inside theatre and opera inside and outside the opera.
‘Everything for the arts!’ decided the cultural elite – but how far can this actually be taken? The documentary recapitulation culminates with the outbreak of a war between Beauty at the service of Art against the scientific thinking, born in the French Revolution.
In Spanish with Dutch surtitles
Tex:t Jorge Kuri
Inspired by ‘The history of the Castrati’ by Patrick Barbier
Claudio Valdés Kuri, director
Magda Zalles, musical direction
Raúl Román (Jean Paré), Gastón Yanes (Ambroise Paré), Javier Medina (Il virtuoso), Kaveh Parmas (Sulaiman), Edwin Calderón (Baldessarre Galuppi), Miguel Ángel López (Chiron), Luis Fernando Villegas (Napoleon Bonaparte)
World premiere Spain, 2000
Holland Festival 2008 Web Site