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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Monsters* *and Prodigies: A History of the Castrati - sans cheval

Leave your scissors at home...


Thu, Feb 5-Sat, Feb 7, 8 pm

Novellus Theater at YBCA

700 Howard Street @ 3rd, San Francisco, CA

$30 Regular/$25 YBCA Member/Student/Senior/Teacher

415.978.ARTS (2787) or
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) presents Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes, one of Mexico's leading experimental theater groups, in its Bay Area debut. The company is slated to perform /Monsters* *and Prodigies: A History of the Castrati /which takes audiences on a delicious musical romp through operatic history, zooming in on the life of the castrati, a baroque cultural phenomenon symbolizing an unyielding search for beauty and purity in a society of decadence.

/"Monsters and Prodigies/ : /A History of the Castrati /is a remarkable mise-en-scène that unearths an unprecedented artistic, social and cultural phenomenon: the history of the castrated children born in poverty who were propelled to the status of stars in the courts of Europe.
Directed by Claudio Valdés Kuri and written by the late Jorge Kuri for Mexico City's internationally acclaimed Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes, /Monsters /is a colorful and often humorous three-century journey from the decadent extremes of the Baroque period to the technological 20th century, where beauty has been annihilated by reason [sic]. With a "precise and wild gaze," the company infuses life into one of the most sublime mysteries in history. Delivered with off-the-wall humor and terrific musical aplomb, the versatile artists of Teatro De Ciertos Habitantes play-out a chronological narrative of the contradictions, extravagances and whims of the castrati. Through the juxtaposition of artistic disciplines, routines and languages, /Monsters and Prodigies/ tells the tales of castrati who lived in defiance of moral and reasonable law, in their bodies and in their souls, in an impossible coupling of freak and angel, monster and wonder.

Performed in Spanish and Italian with English subtitles, the work begins with a reflection on the role of castrati - seen as both artistic prodigies and disfigured monsters - but soon launches into a musical tour of opera history peppered with increasing doses of screwball antics and highjinks. The cast of characters includes a hoof-stomping centaur, Siamese twins who run a surgery ward out of their Naples barbershop, a gossipy opera maven and, not least, Napoleon. The audience accompanies barber-surgeon Jean-Ambroise Paré through the splendors and extravagances of the Baroque era -- an outstanding and enigmatic period in art history. Through a play within a play and an opera within an opera, with a polyphonic structure that alternates scenes, musical arias and interludes, /Monsters and Prodigies/ culminates with the outbreak of war between beauty at the service of art against scientific thinking born in the French Revolution, ending with one of the most sublime mysteries of history: the incomparable voices of the castrati. There are several versions of the production and the one performed at YBCA will not include the horse.

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