OF MONSTERS AND PRODIGIES: THE HISTORY OF THE CASTRATI
By Jorge Kuri
Monsters and Prodigies is a sophisticated yet good-natured lampoon of 18th-century opera. Despite the textbook data, the show is a spoof at heart, and it can be quite funny even for those who are not opera lovers.
Lincoln Center Festival, The New York Times
The strength of Valdés Kuri lies in his capacity to contrast opposites, foolishness with harmony, violence with gentleness. These singer-actors are capable of singing the most beautiful melodies (Gluck, Handel...) but are also capable of pleasurable nonsense.
Libération, Kunsten Festival des Arts, París
A staging that offers a different theatrical experience than usual to the spectator’s senses. This performance offers a fresh, interesting, and, above all, entertaining theatrical proposal.
Primera Fila / Reforma
2007: Best Visiting Production, Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors of New York.
2007: Best Play, Unomásuno
2000 – 2001: Best National Production, Mexican Association of Theatre Critics
At the dawn of the 17th century, a phenomenon shook-up the Italian stage: in a Neapolitan barbershop, a two-headed surgeon-barber began the practice of castration in order to preserve a soprano tessitura in children.
As this history is recapitulated, we accompany the surgeon-barber Jean-Ambroise Paré on a journey towards the splendor of Baroque art, in a mosaic that brings together the extravagances that marked this outstanding and enigmatic period of art history. From the presence of castrati in Italian opera, to baroque dance, stories and superstitions about monsters, in a banquet of scenes that make up this stage tableau.
The twists and turns of the play explore the unexpected events and adventures of the castrati; their romances and whims; the stormy relationships they maintained with composers and businessmen, in a polyphonic structure that alternates scenes, musical arias and interludes, through a flamboyant construction: theater within theater and opera inside and outside the opera.
The historical recap culminates in the outbreak of a war between the concepts of beauty in the service of art against scientific reasoning, which originated in the French Revolution and ended with one of the most sublime mysteries in history: the incomparable voice of the castrati.