PRESENTATION

 

 

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 molded, represented the summit of artistic sublimation.

 

 

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.

 

In an empty space, the participants acknowledged artists from different disciplines fill us with the Baroque spirit of ornamentation, through a chronological narrative that gives account of the internal contradiction, extravagances and whims of these monstrous angels.

 

 

The production is created through the juxtaposition of artistic disciplines, routines and languages, all of which touch the essence of the Baroque period, working in the austerity of an empty stage. The actors challenge their capacity of calling the attention of the audience, using all the resources at hand. This is how the play shows openly the stories of these human beings who lived constantly challenging all the moral and reasonable laws, in their bodies as well as in their souls, to end in the impossible coupling between the freak and the angel, between the monster and the wonder.

 

 

Claudio Valdés Kuri

Director

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

 

 

In the beginnings of the 18th century, a phenomenal event shocks the Italian stages: in a Neapolitan barbershop a two-headed barber-surgeon began to practice castration, with the main objective of preserving in children the soprano tessitura.

 

 

Through recapitulation of History, we accompany the barber-surgeon Jean-Ambroise Paré in a journey towards the splendor 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.

 

 

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, and ended with one of the most sublime mysteries of history: the incomparable voice of the castrati.

 

 

 

PROGRAM NOTES

 

 

 

TEATRO DE CIERTOS HABITANTES

MÉXCIO

 

MONSTERS AND PRODIGIES

THE HISTORY OF THE CASTRATI

By Jorge Kuri

 

 

My Dear Child,

 

 

It does not surprise me that thou hath felt an invisible aversion for what you care most in the world. Rude and vulgar people have brutally told thee about the possibility of castrating thou; dim-witted and hideous expression that would hath provoked nausea to a less delicate spirit than the one thou hath. As for me, I will try to pursue thy well being with less rude manners. And I will tell thee with less insinuating words that thou must make polish thee through a light surgery, which will ensure thee a long time delicate skin and the beauty of thy voice for the rest of your life. Today, thou can speak to the King with familiarity; the duchesses spoil thee, all quality people praise thee. When the enchantment of your voice hath gone, thou will not be but Pompeii¿s comrade and thou will deserve, perhaps, the scorn of Stourton (respectively the Negro and the page of the Mazarino Duchess). Thou hath said that thou fear to be less loved by the ladies. Thou must loseth that apprehension since we are not anymore living the times of the imbeciles. Today it is much appreciated the benefit obtained thanks to the surgery and, for a lover that Dery could have in his natural state, Dery, thou, will have a hundred, once thou hath polish thee. Thou can be sure that thou will have lovers, what a great luck, but thou will not have a wife, which means to be safe of a disgrace. ¡Happy the one that does not have a wife! ¡Much happier the one that has not children! A Dery¿s daughter will be pregnant, a son would be hanging in the hayfork and, most surely, his wife will be false to thee. Be safe of all these harms with this prompt surgery. Thou will be only tied to thyself, glorious with a small sacrifice that will make your fortune grow and that will give thee the friendship of all and every men. F I live enough to see that thy voice hath changed and thy beard hath grown, thou will have to endure my reproof. Prevent all these and consider me the most sincere of all your friends.¿

 

 

                                                                   Charles de Saint-Evremond, 1685

 

 

 

 

HISTORY OF THE PROJECT

 

 

Monsters and Prodigies: the History of the Castrati had its very successful premiere in October 2000 in Spain, having participated in the Ibero-American Festival of Theatre at Cádiz, Temporada Alta 2000 at Gerona and the Open Granada Festival.

Likewise, with this play the restructuring of the Artistic and Cultural Complex of the National Institute of Fine Arts was inaugurated.

From November 2000 to March 2001 it has a professional season at the El Galeón Theatre with full house in all the performances.

The play has been performed in the Caracas Theatre Festival, the Kunsten Festival des Arts (Brussels); the Miami Hispano Theatre Festival and the New York Hispano Theatre Festival and the International Arts Showcase (Puerto Rico). During the summer 2006, this prestigious play will be set again to do homage to Jorge Kuri, decesed in 2005. Since then it has been performed in the main international venues such as: Lincoln Center Festival of Sarajevo, Laznia Nowa in Cracow, Buenos Aires International Festival, Mercosur Festival in Córdoba, Iberoamerican Festival of Bogotá, among many others.

 

 

 

 

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

 

 

TEATRODECIERTOSHABITANTES

 

 

Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes was founded in 1997. The company has been internationally acclaimed due to its previous productions: Becket or the Honour of God, Monsters and Prodigies: The History of the Castrati- plus The Grey Automobile and Where Will I Be Tonight? Its director, Claudio Valdés Kuri, as well as the company, has received several international awards.

 

 

The company has performed at many renowned venues and festivals including: International Cervantino Festival (Guanajuato), Mexico's Centro Histórico Festival, Wiener Festwochen (Vienna), Kunsten Festival des Arts (Brussels),  Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin), Kampnagel (Hamburgo), Holland Festival Mess Festival (Sarajevo), Laznia (Cracovia), Grec Festival (Barcelona), Arts Festival (Singapore), Expo-Aychi (Nagoya), National Theatre (El Cairo), Alger Radio (Algeria), Ibero-American Festival (Bogota), International Theatre Festival (Caracas), International Festival Teatro a Mil (Santiago de Chile), International Theatre Festival (Belo Horizonte), Riocenacontemporanea Festival (Rio de Janeiro), among others. In the United States, several tours in the main country venues such as: Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center (Washington D.C.),  Yerba Buena Performing Arts Center (San Francisco), Redcat (Los Ángeles) among many others.

 

 

Their long-running season in Mexico City has played to sold-out houses and the company has organized several national tours throughout Mexico.

 

Complementary to each project, Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes offers a full range of residency activities including panel discussions, lectures, classes, workshops, radio series, TV programs and interactive compact discs.

 

 

 

 

Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes works under simple principles that provoke ample consequences. Each project is approached considering risks, specific questioning and an open debate. Once these risks and questions have been duly solved, the project is concluded permitting the group to concentrate on another project. We consider that the element of change is the prime instrument for the development of the artistic spirit. Research work is emphasized for each project, avoiding as much as possible the repetition of former presentation models and previous discoveries. At the same time, each presentation is polished during long processes to attain maturity, nourished by the experience accumulated, pertaining to direction, production, creativity and interpreters. Reliance on scenic work is placed entirely upon a multidisciplinary artist, actor-musician-dancer, who will use all of his abilities to the utmost.

 

 

 

 

THE DIRECTOR

 

Claudio Valdés Kuri

 

 

Claudio Valdés Kuri, a prestigious Mexican director, is recognized as one of Latin America's artists with the most international acclaim. Founder and director of the company Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes, his work includes The Grey Automobile, Monsters and Prodigies: The History of the Castrati, Becket or the Honour of God and Where Will I Be Tonight?, Presented in Mexico (his native country), and in Europe, Latin America, the United States and the Caribbean area. Specialized critics named him the best director in experimental theatre as well as best group theatre director, best visiting director of New York and the Golden Laurel Wreath for best direction.

 

 

Several important governmental offices have commissioned and co-produced his productions: Compañía Nacional de Teatro (Mexico), National Autonomous University of Mexico, International Cervantino Festival (Guanajuato), Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin), Kunsten Festival des Arts (Brussels) and Wiener Festwochen (Vienna).

Claudio Valdés Kuri was selected to develop the "Translation and Contextualization" project for Arts International (New York City) and took part in the "Artist in Context" program sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Center of North Carolina's Duke University and "Arts Management" program in the Kennedy Center (Washington D.C.).

 

 

Claudio Valdés Kuri holds a degree in film director from Mexico's "Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica", with a honourable mention for his work in the documentary field.

Claudio's training as an actor began at the early age of 11 in 1976, under the leadership of Susana Wein. He participated in countless productions with her company for the next seventeen years. From 1996 to 1999 he belong to the Carpa Theater of Austria.

 

 

He was co-founder and bass voice of the early music ensemble Ars Nova, dedicated mostly to renaissance and Latin American baroque music. Over the last fifteen years, this group has toured Mexico, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, South America, the United States, and the Caribbean.

The monthly publication Mexican Leaders has acknowledged him as one of the top 300 most influential leaders in the country.

 

 

 

 

THE AUTHOR

 

Jorge Kuri

 

 

Jorge Kuri (1974-2005). He got his bachelor degree in Dramatic Literature and Theatre at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and he graduated from the Writer's School in Mexico (SOGEM). He carried out playwrighting studies with Jesús González Dávila and of performance with Juan José Gurrola. He has also collaborated in the cultural supplement Sábado of Unomásuno newspaper, as well as articles and researches at the Theatre Research Centre (CITRU). His plays La amargura del merengue (The Bitterness of the Meringue) and Ya chupaste faros (Dead as a Doornail) have been rewarded in national contests. He presented his first play El escritor tiene la culpa (The Writers is the Guilty One) at the UNAM. The project Monsters and Prodigies: the History of the Castrati, directed by Claudio Valdés Kuri, in its theatrical and radio series versions, has been rewarded and widely recognized in Mexico and abroad. In 2004, his play La amargura del meringue was premiered with success in New York.

He won a scholarship from the program Jóvenes Creadores (Young Creators) from FONCA and from the Mexican Foundation for Arts, institution that at the moment is preparing the edition of his wide work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CREDITS

 

 

TEATRODECIERTOSHABITANTES

MÉXICO

 

 

MONSTERS AND PRODIGIES

By Jorge Kuri

 

 

Inspired by

THE HISTORY OF THE CASTRATI

By Patrick Barbier

 

 

Directed by

Claudio Valdés Kuri

 

CAST

 

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

 

CREATIVE CREW

 

Director

Claudio Valdés Kuri

Artistic Assistance

Claudia Mader

Musical direction

Magda Zalles

Executive producer

Carlos López

Costume design

Mario Iván Martínez

Lightning design

Matías Gorlero

Baroque dances

Alan Stark

Hair & Make-up

Carlos Guizar

Atrezzo

Felipe Lara

Costume coordination

Mauricio Ascencio

General coordination

Fabrina Melón

 

Production

Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes
Coordinación Nacional de Teatro / INBA

 

Sponsorship

Fundación BBVA-Bancomer A.C.

México en Escena / FONCA

 

 

This play is presented as an homage to Jorge Kuri, deceased in 2005.