This musical is based on “The Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea” by Fernando de Rojas. Written in 1499, the novel-in-dialogue is the original Romeo and Juliet, predating Shakespeare’s version by precisely 100 years. However, the piece has always been popularly called “La Celestina,” after the indomitable old lady matchmaker that is hired by Calisto to woo the lady Melibea who has rejected him. Celestina embodies all vice, and will stop at nothing to dominate the situation and gain her desired end. In addition to her matchmaker profession, she is a prostitute, madam, door-to-door saleslady, and witch—conjuring demons to support her dark purposes.
Although warned against becoming entangled with the “old slut” by his faithful servant Pameno, Calisto’s other servant, Sempronio, convinces him to put his faith in her famous hands. The two servants are matched with two of Celestina’s prostitutes, thereby cementing their loyalty to her cause of bilking their master of his money. Still, Celestina proves to be effective at her job, winning over the temperamental Melibea and setting up a meeting for the lovers. The old lady’s downfall is in underestimating the greed of Calisto’s servants, who fight with and then murder her when she refuses to share any of the spoils. The servants themselves are killed by the police as they flee the scene.
With Celestina and the servants dead, the bereft prostitutes, Elicia and Areusa, plot revenge by hiring a thug to threaten Calisto. Just as Calisto and Melibea are consummating their love in her lofty garden, the thug arrives to make mischief. Calisto,
in his rush to descend the ladder, slips and falls to his death. Melibea, distraught at losing her lover also jumps to her death.
Rojas’s “La Celestina” is considered to be one of the three greatest literary works in the history of Spanish literature alongside “Don Quixote” and “Don Juan Tenorio.” In the English speaking world, however, Celestina has failed to gain much acclaim, perhaps because the original piece is difficult to categorize. It is not a novel, a genre that did not yet exist in 1499. Nor is it a play, since the structure, plot, and length of the work make it impossible to stage in its original form; it is simply a flowing dialogue among fascinating, funny, dark, clever characters.
My goal, which was originally suggested by my Spanish Masters thesis adviser, Carlos Mellizo, at the University of Wyoming, has been to create a producible modern English version of the original story. As a passionate student of Spanish literature and obviously a devotee of “La Celestina”, my challenge has been to capture the powerful essence and energy of the world’s first “tragicomedy.” I have tried to honor the spirit of this literary titan, while taking the liberty of pruning a few characters and events and shifting around plot points to tell the core story as efficiently as possible. One of the most enjoyable parts of the process has been deciding which famous passages should be songs--and then, of course, choosing the style of music to suit the moment. Also, I have taken the liberty of outfitting the character of Celestina with a quartet of sexy chorus boy back-up singers. I thought she needed that. I hope what follows does some justice to the original masterpiece and brings this classic story to life for American audiences for years to come.
A handsome, wealthy young man in love with Melibea
A beautiful, wealthy young woman
A clever servant of Calisto
THE CELESTINA BOYS
Celestina's back up singers
An old slut
A young, innocent servant of Calisto
Sempronio’s girlfriend, one of Celestina’s “girls”
Melibea’s little maid
One of Celestina’s “girls”
Melibea’s father, a wealthy, powerful business man
An oafish thug-for-hire (played by same actor as Calisto)
(played by same actors as Parmeno, Elicia, Areusa, Lucrecia, Calisto, Melibea’s Father)
A servant of Calisto (played by same actor as Parmeno)
A servant of Calisto (played by same actor as Sempronio)