The castrati of the Medieval and Baroque eras were young boys castrated to keep their childish but promising angelic voices. Acclaimed for their musical genius, venerated by the aristocracy and defamed by the church, their lives were full of excitement, hardship and misery.
Mexican theatrical director Claudio Valdés ventures towards a mystical representation of these medieval opera wonders in De Monstruos y Prodigios, performed by the Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes company.
In a world full of imagination, deep tragedy and a touch of dark humor, Valdés creatively sketches the life of the main character, the castrati played by Javier Medina. And, unlike similar works like Farinelli, where stories seem more fictional, the young director carefully respects the historical details of reality. As he claims, “This is a way to render tribute to them, a historical representation of their ideas."
The rest of the characters all play fascinating roles in representing the dualism between logic and reason, which is vividly represented by the Siamese, a pair of quite humorous characters. The two clownishly relate the castrati's hardships to the audience, adding a vital bit of comic relief to the play.
As the director suggests, he lacks total control of the play, so improvisation plays a key role in shaping the tone of each performance. By giving the actors the liberty to express a bit of their own style, each performance has a different feel--sometimes more tragic, other times a bit more comical.
Nevertheless, as far as we could see, the improvisation was great. The live musical arrangements and different dances were very real and vivid as well, closely representing the Baroque period. One can’t help but listen in awe to the powerful melodic tones of Javier Medina, whose high-pitched voice will guarantee amazement.
The characters, music, usage of space and symbolism together work out a delightful and dynamic composition. This stage play will blow your mind, and your ears.
De Monstruos y Prodigios
January 20, 2009, 9 pm
Part of the Santiago a Mil International Theater Festival
General admission CP$7,000 (US$11.30), students and seniors CP$3,500 (US$5.60)
Teatro Universidad Católica, Sala 1
Jorge Washington 26, at Irarrázaval, Nuñoa