Nowadays, Montezuma tends to be associated with revenge of a digestive nature but in Theater der Welt's Enlightenment take on Spain's subjugation of Mexico, the Aztec ruler is portrayed as naive and benevolent, more concerned with changing his head gear and T-shirts than the conquistadors on his doorstep.
The opera was completed in 1755 by Carl Heinrich Graun to a libretto by Frederick II, the King of Prussia, and Graun certainly knows how to embellish a tune. Although it lacks the dramatic genius of Handel, the music was pleasant and played with spirit, if not always accuracy, by Concerto Elyma conducted by Gabriel Garrido. Luis Antonio Rojas' short contemporary take on a Mexican baroque piece which closed this three hour-long performance provided a brief and moving moment of sanity in an otherwise absurd production.
Director Claudio Valdes Kuri's uneven staging veered between farce and pantomime with Aztecs running around as if in training for Olympic events and a dog that barked and sniffed to distraction. With random examples of 21st-century ephemera scattered throughout the first half and then full on in the last, Valdes Kuri seemed to imply this was the result of Spanish colonisation but these objects looked out of place and as ridiculous as the costumes.
The Aztecs carried plastic water bottles while Montezuma's Queen Eupaforice, sung with great forbearance by Lourdes Ambriz, had to endure climbing stairs upside down and being dressed in a lap dancer's outfit, blindfolded and made to wear a sparkly pair of high heels while she is poked and prodded by Narves (Christophe Carre). Montezuma, sung with conviction by countertenor Flavio Oliver, is humiliated and raped by Cortes (Adrian-George Popescu) while dressed in a poncho and sombrero. Overall a concert performance would have been preferable to this unfocused and idiosyncratic production.