Magne is now planning an opera based on the tragic story of Julia Pastrana. She was a Mexican woman, born in 1834, who suffered from hypertrichosis, a syndrome that gave her a very unusual appearance.
She would eventually be exhibited at sideshows around the world as “Bearded and Hairy Lady” and “The Apewoman”, until her death in 1860. Bizarrely, her body was then mummified and would continue to be displayed in public for more than one hundred years, until it somehow ended up in storage in Oslo. Now, in 2013, Julia’s remains are finally being returned from Norway to Mexico, where she will have a proper funeral.
Magne has personally gotten involved in the process of returning Julia Pastrana to Mexico. Yesterday he took part in a closed ceremony at Oslo University Hospital, along with Jonas Bjerre, Ute Meta Bauer and Mexican artist Laura Anderson Barbata, where the coffin was formally handed over to Mexican authorities, represented by ambassador Martha Barcena Coqui. The funeral will be held in Sinaloa, Mexico on Tuesday next week.
“The story of Julia Pastrana is one of the most fascinating stories I have ever come across, both as an artist and as a fellow human being”, Magne tells VG.
Together with Laura Anderson Barbata he is now planning to turn Julia Pastrana’s story into an opera:
“We want to make a rich, proud and ambitious production. We’re aware that there’s also a Hollywood movie being planned, but we’re hoping to tell the story in our own way. This is about how society responds to unusual people, how we treat people with handicaps. It’s such a strong story that an opera would be appropriate. It will be a celebration of her”, Magne says.
“Julia Pastrana used to sing opera, so I think it’s a good idea if they make this a worthy tribute to her”, ambassador Barcena Coqui says.