If ever there was a class of artists that attained all the glories of mega success through unimaginable suffering, it was the castrati. These unique singers were castrated at a young age, and then subjected to arduous training. The boys had no life outside of school; a typical day, according to the records of one singing school in Rome, consisted of "one hour of singing difficult and awkward pieces, one hour practising trills, one hour practising ornamented passaggi, one hour of singing exercises in their teacher's presence and in front of a mirror so as to avoid unnecessary movement of the body or facial grimaces, and one hour of literary study." And this was just the pre-lunch schedule! Afternoons consisted of music theory, counterpoint literary study, harpsichord practice and vocal composition. The rewards of this excruciating discipline were an unmatched stage presence and depth of musical understanding, and a pre-pubescent voice of such power and flexibility that operatic superstardom was virtually assured. This week, Mexico's acclaimed Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes brings us the L.A. premiere of their rollicking farce, "Monsters and Prodigies: A History of the Castrati," a broadly comic, impeccably articulated peek into the unrestrained world of early European opera and the temperamental eunuch divas who were the rock stars of their day . Among the delectable characters are a two-headed Siamiese twin, a surgeon and an opera columnist, who time-travel from the 18th to the 20th centuries, "from the succulent extremes of the Baroque to the beginnings of the technological age, where beauty has been annihilated by reason."
Wed., Jan. 28, 8:30 p.m.; Thu., Jan. 29, 8:30 p.m.; Fri., Jan. 30, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 31, 8:30 p.m., 2009