Astrid Hadad to Examine Mexico Past and Present in TIERRA MISTERIOSA at Peak Performances
This Cinco de Mayo weekend, Peak Performances will present cabaret singer / performance artist Astrid Hadad - at once one of Mexico's most internationally renowned artists and "one of the country's most engaging critics" (PRI's "The World") - in the U.S. premiere of her acclaimed stage work Tierra Misteriosa.
Tierra Misteriosa exemplifies Hadad's artistry, combining original songs and classics in multiple genres with commentary that is by turns humorous, searing and poignant, all performed in a series of over-the-top costumes rich with historical references.
In performances May 5 & 6 at the Alexander Kasser Theater at Montclair State University, Hadad will take audiences on a sassy and tuneful journey through her beloved homeland's tumultuous history and across its current sociopolitical landscape.
In Tierra Misteriosa, Hadad offers her take on hundreds of years of history, from Tenochtitlan, the ancient capital of the Aztec empire, through the stories of forgotten women like Malinche, who in the 16th Century acted as Cortes' interpreter and later bore his children, to the Mexico of today, about which she she offers penetrating insight. The work's title song, for example, finds her fearlessly singing:
Over you fly vultures
Military men, multinational companies
Presidents, hit men, businessmen
Yesterday they were called viceroys, today they're dignitaries
500 years have passed
And the only thing that's changed
Is that now the pillagers are called politicians
In addition to her own songs, Hadad interprets-often updating the lyrics to-well-known classics such as La Llorona, La Bamba and La Cucaracha. Over the course of the show, she wears more than a dozen spectacular handmade costumes she refers to as "portable sets," each of which is adorned with Mexican iconography.
Tierra Misteriosa is conceived, directed and performed by Hadad, who also designed the costumes. She is joined onstage by Omar Ortiz(musical direction, piano, accordion, chorus), Sibila de Villa (saxophone, flute, chorus), Jorge Velasco (electric bass) and Marco Manrique(percussion, guitar and chorus). Michèle Desfresne is production manager and lighting designer, and Johnny Calderón serves as production assistant.
Upon the world premiere of Tierra Misteriosa, in 2011 at Mexico City's Teatro de la Ciudad, Hadad described her intention to "tell the history of Mexico my way, through familiar songs, 13 costumes, and other songs written by me. These are things they didn't tell us in school. I look at what progress there has been, how we have changed, and where all that has happened leaves us." While acknowledging the many challenges facing Mexico-including corruption and drug violence-Tierra Misteriosa is hopeful, uplifting and often light-hearted. In new lyrics to La Llorona, she sings "Leave your sorrow, crying woman. Because crying paralyzes, and if you stay still, they will beat you up." Discussing the Tierra Misteriosa album in 2011, Hadad told Betto Arcos of Public Radio International's "The World," "I never lose my humor. I think it's necessary to keep the spark of humor, the depth of humor. I love to, because otherwise life is not worth living. Despite the pains, and despite the horrors we're living in Mexico, life is still very beautiful."
Hadad, a trained actress and singer, first rose to prominence in the mid-1980s with a breakout role in an all-female production of Mozart's Don Giovanni. She has since created a rich body of work-11 albums and more than 20 stage productions-in her own style, performing in music and theater festivals worldwide.
Hadad garnered critical praise when she last performed in the New York / New Jersey area, in 2016 as a headliner at the globalFEST music festival at The Public Theater. Reviewing that concert, Jon Pareles of The New York Times wrote that Hadad "was Globalfest's Lady Gaga, changing costumes throughout her set. Dipping into Mexican and Caribbean styles, she brought layers of camp...Her nutty flamboyance came through clearly." Bob Boilen of NPR Music credited Hadad with "the most startling, stunning, beautiful stage presence."
IF YOU GO:
Peak Performances presents
Tierra Misteriosa (U.S. Premiere)
May 5 at 7:30 pm and May 6 at 8pm
The Alexander Kasser Theater at Montclair State University (1 Normal Ave, Montclair, NJ)
Tickets: $20; www.peakperfs.org or 973.655.5112
Isabel Soffer/Live Sounds is program consultant for Tierra Misteriosa.
Peak Performances is a program of the Office of Arts and Cultural Programming at Montclair State University and has been honored by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts with an Arts Citation of Excellence and Designation of Major Impact. Programs in this season are made possible in part by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Alison and James T. Cirenza; Holly and Robert Gregory; and The Honorable Mary Mochary.