Best Shows of The Year 2011       "Publico" review Portugal


Best International Act  2011        Latest Awards, Brighton Festival




Following the emotional and artistic turmoil of a group of singers as they rehearse a new choral work, this highly physical ‘opera for actors’ from Mexico’s Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes may be written entirely in a made-up language. But combined with the comedy of tension and rivalry and some gorgeous live music, that only makes it more accessible.Anyone who’s ever prepared for a performance in front of an audience would have found something to connect with in El Gallo, the second musical theatre piece from Mexico’s Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes to receive its UK premiere as part of the Brighton Festival. And though its form is highly experimental – a thoroughly modern opera performed in a made-up language – it taps into our popular, X-Factor fostered taste for seeing the rehearsal process alongside the performance, the tears and tantrums in tandem with the resulting artistic triumph.What happens in between tips surreally between comedy and tragedy as nerves, creative tensions and professional rivalries run amok. And there’s even a sequence involving a whole other new performance genre – orchestra-accompanied wrestling.All this is communicated, without a word of existing language: the cajoling, fretting, arguing, teasing, gossiping and breaking down is all rendered in gobbledygook. And I definitely found it liberating not having to follow surtitles, programme notes or imperfect diction to grasp the gist of the story. But the made-up language also left room for a pleasing degree of ambiguity about the perimeters of the performance within the performance – at times I wasn’t quite sure where the choral work that was being rehearsed ended and the play began.Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes, a company whose members include a dancer and a classical horse rider as well as a professional soprano, are really exploring the potential for using the human voice in specifically physical theatre. As the singers strive to meet the work’s demands on their voices, to strike the right notes, tones and timbres, they gesture absurdly with their arms, like puppeteers trying to manipulate literal vocal chords. Pulled up physically from within, the music we hear here, taking in everything from classical opera to Middle Eastern folk song, was often beautiful and sometimes instinctive but never without a whole lot of muscle. 

Bella Todd 

Fringe Review, Brighton Festival, 29 / may / 11



If you’ve ever wondered how opera singers prepare for a choral concert, theater director Claudio Valdés Kuri has the answer. Or an answer. Or maybe just his fantasy of the answer.That’s about as good a description as any of Kuri’s whimsical El Gallo (“rooster” in Spanish) in which a director (perhaps the “cock” of the title?) auditions five singers, then tries to whip them into shape for a performance. That all the words, both spoken and sung, are in a made-up language, incomprehensible to everyone but the performers, provides an additional element of fun and parody.The scene is hilarious with the five actors — three women and two men — able to convey earnestness, determination, or frustration with a simple change in facial expression, body language, or vocal flourish.There’s no question Kuri and his experimental company Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes are a talented bunch. Every aspect of El Gallo, including the haunting original score by Paul Barker (who also created the made-up language) and the stirring playing of the eight musicians, supports the narrative thrust of the play. Ernesto Gomez Santana is masterful as the director, able to express his disgust with the singers even with his back to us, and the five actors who portray the singers — Itzia Zerón, Irene Akiko Iida, Fabrina Melón, Edwin Calderón, and Guillermo Proal — are totally committed to Kuri’s vision, drawing personal narratives that are as uproarious, heartbreaking, or melodramatic as the material demands.El Gallo caps On the Boards’ international theater season with a production that delights even as it sometimes mystifies.

Alice Kaderlan, 13 / may / 11



For Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes it is a perfect project. Director Claudio Valdés Kuri and his company have always been inclined toward projects whose goal it is to dissemble and reconstruct language. They have equally shown an interest in the semi-permeable membrane between opera and avant-garde theater (as in their play about castrati, De Monstruos y Prodigios). Mr. Barker's libretto is a perfect union of their diverse sensibilities and a showcase for their world-famous talents.El Gallo is quite unlike anything you've ever seen. Designed for those who hate opera and those who love opera both, El Gallo brings a healthy skepticism back into the whole practice of Grand Opera. The world can always use more of that.

Omar Willey

Arts & Events,, 12 / may / 11


Expectations are so important. I went into El Gallo at the MCA with a notion that I might see something experimental, disjunct, and abstract. Possibly off the hook. It was all those things but with a visceral sense of urgency that spoke to certain but ineffable human qualities. It was unlike anything I'd seen before - therefore unimaginable going into it - and so had to set its own expectations before exceeding them.But the premise was more of a situation than a plot, so the success of the show rests entirely on how the characters act and react to this situation -one that most audience members never get to see.Indeed, the audition and rehearsal process is probably the most intense part of a theatrical production, and yet the audience only gets to see the finished product, with all the wrinkles ironed out, the insecurities and inhibitions safely locked away under a veneer of forced sincerity.El Gallo hides nothing away, and the audience gets to see something more real, laid bare, with all of the practiced posturing stripped away.It requires a whole different kind of actor, one with a deeper and longer sense of commitment, one comfortable with exploring and exposing their personal issues. It made for an intense performance with a dizzying level of commitment.Accompanying them was a double string quartet led by W. J. Raynovich, artistic director of the MAVerick Ensemble, who played Barker's contemporary-not-modernist score with a similar level of commitment - though not 2 years worth! - and intuitive intonation.Highly recommended.

Evan K

Chicago Now, 28 / apr /11 



It is likely that many of the people who attended the performance of El Gallo, from renowned company Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes, felt goosebumps when realizing that the opening scene reflected a beginning ritual that they have all had to go through in more than one occasion: the audition process.A scenery that doesn't present anything but a rehearsal studio, which will in time transform into boxing arena, exorcism zone and ultimately into no man's land.I imagine El Gallo as that fast concentrate -but in no way less wise or substantial- of the real process that the cast underwent in order to get the play on it's two feet: finding from within oneself a form of one's own voice -the one cast by one's own vocal chords and the one that distinguishes each of them as scenic artists-, shining on stage -whether singing solo or in choir-, digging deep within oneself to eradicate and expose weaknesses and finally to let go of everything in an act of purification and conciliation.Some scenes, short and intimate, break with the quotidian and add the sensation of days passing by, showing the characters finding refuge in themselves; there is a dramatic aspect that goes from operatic affairs to the intimacy of a direct gaze, from intricate physical choreography to subtle collective arrangements.Thus, in a process that moves directly towards catharsis and exorcism, we become one with this fight, whose results are reflected in a beautiful tableau that encloses the first scene. Here, I cannot detach myself from my inner music lover when I say that I believe the most beautiful musical moment of the whole play took place: an intricate harmony of voices in which all were one and each distinguished itself as well. After applause and cheers, the infection was inevitable: didn't you come out of the theatre singing too?


Claudia Solano

Muestra Nacional de Teatro, Guadalajara, nov / 2010



MITIN has chosen a heavy weight for the opening of this year's festival. Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes is one of Mexico's most internationally renowned groups and its plays are acknowledged by critics and audiences alike. For the first time in Seville, we have been able to understand the fame that precedes the company. El Gallo is a bet for the fusion of theatre, dance and music that unveils to us an enormous work that captivated spectators from the very first scene.Mexican director Claudio Valdés Kuri and British composer Paul Barker, manage to subjugate us with a story that tells us of the ins and outs of the creation of an opera and its premier. With an unintelligible but perfectly understandable dialogue we witness the fear, despair and success of a group of actors/singers who put a tremendous effort to please a director that puts them to a multitude of tests, provoking in them fights and restlessness that will emerge throughout the first rehearsals.The actors, all masters of theirs craft, offer and exhibit of scenic qualities in which singing, interpreting and dance are combined in a kind of configuration of the triple-threat performer.From the beginning you enjoy and are surprised at the excellency of these performers who surrender themselves in body and soul to the dramaturgy. An original spectacle, filled with nuances that provoke an instant communion with that which is produced on stage. The greatness of El Gallo lies in its vision of total scenic art, they achieve the sensation of receiving a spectacle that has been written, designed and interpreted with capital letters.


Javier Paisano

Diario de Sevilla, oct / 2010



The tuning of affinity.An opera of actors under the creative and innovate hand of director Claudio Valdés Kuri.“Ahhh! Should we ask for an encore? Is it really over? You always want more of what's good”. That is what a man said to me when walking out of the theatre.Even after knowing the details about El Gallo, the magnet that attracted us to the Teatro Experimental on Saturday night, many of us did not imagine what kind of experience would this opera for actors be.-The music is delightful. It covers completely all artists on stage, it caresses the ear and it was -for me- the great protagonist because of Paul Barker's compositions and because of each of the actors' part in the story; what it provoked in each of the characters and as an ensemble.-The actors: emotion, definition, technique in each character. They made us laugh till we cried (and in more than one occasion they almost had a couple of theatre goers in the near edge of a laughing fit), and then they removed all empathy from us and confronted us. They also sang with all heart and honesty.-The story: more than just presenting a musical ensemble and what they have to go through in order to have a good piece to show to an audience, the plot sounded to me like a process we all need to undergo: to know, confront and defeat that which impedes us to achieve a harmony, express ourselves with the less possible damage that our personal phobias can cause us. And also as different people that we all are, we can generate together something that is good and likable if we manage to go beyond certain differences.-The dialogues? Reading the hand program can confuse and generate expectation. The thing is that when you come out of the theatre, if you read it once again, you will fully understand it.-And lastly, going back to how pretty it is regarding the music, it made me think of it and its quality of “universal language”: there are lots of possibilities.When eavesdropping at the lobby of the Teatro Experimental, all we could hear were positive comments.

Claudia Solano

El Telón, Ocio, Guadalajara, 7 / mar / 2010



The best of 2009.

For the amplitude and relevance of the works done during 2009 within the ambit of Mexican theatre, there are diverse stage creatives that could be mentioned individually as the more outstanding of the year; whereas as dramaturge, director, actor or scene designer, each time that theatre is a collective work.Except for the judgements and aesthetic merits of other creators, it would be worthy to mention Claudio Valdés Kuri, whose theatre proposals are well known at national and international scale, and who, along with Paul Barker, premiered El Gallo, in 2009, piece with an extraordinary cast of six actors-singers-dancers.Although the brief season, this one was perhaps one of the performances of greater relevance, by its sensitivity, intelligence and humour, in which it conjugated music, theatre and dance.

 Carlos Paul
La Jornada, Mexico City, 30 / dic / 09



Characters perfectly boarded and studied, an extremely agile and direct scenic direction from Claudio Valdés Kuri, who also has been the dramaturge. Itzia Zerón, Irene Akiko Iida, Fabrina Melón, Edwin Calderón, Kaveh Parmas and Ernesto Gómez Santana have taken the musical challenge with skill, managing to convince and catch the spectator into the universe that represents the rehearsals’ hall and the stage. 

 Jorge Barradas

L’Orfeo, ago / 09


El Gallo receives an ovation at the XI Festival Música y Escena.

The show displayed within the framework of the XI Festival Música y Escena  was celebrated by the public with applauses that lasted for several minutes.The public remained captivated, celebrating with laughter and applauses the performance of the cast of Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes.Using lyrics that for moments seemed to recreate a nonexistent language, managed to be understood by means of gestures and corporal expression of the interpreters, the opera for actors showed a complex dominance of the scene, combining the narrative outline with a great exactitude in the musical transitions.


blog sala de prensa, 24 / ago / 09


The clear originality of each of its productions is characteristic of this group. That is to say, that its identity does not happen through a recognizable line neither aesthetic nor thematic, but rather in shaping a new horizon, deeply worked. Each work marks personal tendencies and a whole exploration field. Each work means to start over a long experience. It is not a play; neither an orchestra rehearsal nor least a conventional opera. It is…El Gallo, an original product.All with a great scenic courage and will of risk: vocally and bodily.  The effect is contradictory and the professional seriousness of Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes is easily recognizable, together with a great sense of humour and with enough self-confidence to open new more free roads for theatre and for singing music.

   Bruno Bert
Tiempo Libre, Ciudad de México, mar / 09

¡Hope and uneasiness!  Space for art and humour in charge of virtuous.  El Gallo is a really beautiful proposal about the human contradiction, an artistic acknowledgement to our communication incapacity held through the paradox of a great artistic interpretation that transmits our impediments. 

      Alegría Martínez
Milenio, Ciudad de México, mar / 09


¡Fascinating piece about selfishness, depersonalization and meanness!
It is the new production of Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes, the infallible machine of doing good theatre.  El Gallo: an opera with its own personality. Says a lot. Teaches more.  Fascinates.  The team that has staged very important turning points in the contemporary theatre, repeats the feat of achieving an artistic fact deep and high.


              Pablo Espinosa
       La Jornada, Ciudad de México, mar / 09



¡Enjoying! Solidity and funny humour of these actors-dancers-singers or vice versa, these singers-actors-dancers.


                       Olga Harmony
La Jornada, Ciudad de México, mar /09  



The result is very interesting, and overall, sublime.

El Gallo, an opera for actors, is what it is in its highest consequences: the performers weapons are nothing but years and years of improvement of vocal and musical techniques, accomplishing an amusing result. Neatness of their voices along the scenic movement (in charge of the Butoh teacher, Diego Piñón) creates an action that keeps you in the present at every moment.Scene by scene, everything is a delight, technically speaking. The fusion of the reality’s horizon, framing the one of fiction, creates one of the most interesting experiences…Claudio Valdés Kuri has skillfully designed a show in which the Bajtinian expression of the body, the delicate shades of the voice and the Rabelais’ medieval devices of humour, coexist harmoniously. The laughter as the acute reflection, the route to deepen in our fragmented human condition.

 Enrique Marín

Enrique Marín Blog, mar / 09



The peculiar work on stage demonstrated why it’s favourite of the public. It is a proposal outside the traditional schemes of the theatre. The spectators, who decide to be part of this scenic adventure, must be aware that it is not a solemn opera where the interpreters almost do not move. On the contrary, in this work the corporal movement is a fundamental element to give life to the narrative, to the history of these singers who want to prevail and to outstand against the others. Very specific characters that are skillfully interpreted by Irene Akiko Iida (Japan), Kaveh Parmas (Iran), Fabrina Melón (The French Antilles), and Ernesto Gómez Santana, Edwin Calderón and Itzia Zerón (México).There is no chance for any distraction. The piece has a perfect continuity. The scenes are of great symbolism, which allows spectators to submerge in each of them. This, added to the live musical interpretation of the students of the National Conservatory of Music, which injects major intensity to the staging.

 Manuel Zavala y Alonso

Conaculta, blog sala de prensa

15 / sep / 09