Anjou: The Musical Horror Tale, a modern Mexican opera, will have its English-language premiere January 29 at 8 PM ET on Playbill. Ahead of the premiere, here are five things you should know about the powerful, exciting, and, of course, “horrifying” piece.
1. Anjou is inspired by real life events. The life of Catherine de’Medici, her favorite son Henry of Anjou, and the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre provide the backdrop of the story. One of the bloodiest events in history, the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, took place after Catherine arranged the marriage of her daughter Margot de Valois to the Protestant King of Navarre. Thousands of Protestants gathered in Paris for the wedding, many of whom were killed while in the city. This became known as the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, and Catherine was almost certainly involved.
2. The show is written by Mexican authors Guillermo Mendez M. and Guadalupe Sandoval. Mendez M. and Sandoval starred in the roles of Catherine and Henry, respectively, in the original production inc1986. Since then, the show has been produced in Mexico City twice, and now, for the first time in digital form and in English.
3. Anjou blends Renaissance and Latin musical styles. This Mexican modern opera utilizes the richness of Latin music and fuses it with the instruments, chord progressions, and time signatures that characterize Renaissance music. The result is a unique sound and style of storytelling that also features musical theatre influences from musicals like Sweeney Todd and Evita.
4. This presentation is Anjou’s English-language premiere. Adaptorr Javier Vilalta was in for a challenge with this digital concert. The goal was to find the true essence of the story and its characters and convey it to an English speaking audience, making sure to maintain the poetry and storytelling in the lyrics. Grammy- and Emmy-winning music director John McDaniel worked closely to Vialta to make sure the English lyrics served the music while remaining true to the composer's original vision.
5. McDaniel has recreated this work from scratch. Technology sometimes works against us. In this case, the composer of the show lost the score when his hard drive got damaged. Fascinated by the project, McDaniel stepped in to accept the challenge of transcribing the show’s vocals and music entirely by ear from the existing recordings.
Anjou premieres on Playbill.com/Anjou January 29. The cast features Taylor Iman Jones, Javier Muñoz, Julia Murney, Bianca Marroquín, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Shereen Pimentel, Caroline Bowman, and more. Roberto Araujo directs.