So much has been written about the life of Frida Kahlo, a central figure of 20th century Latin American art, that when a production decides to present this character in just over an hour’s monologue, there has to be some emotional connection between the performer and the audience. After a rousing standing ovation and two encores in which the Colombian – Canadian actress Flora Martinéz sang Mexican songs of folklore, it was evident that the Teatro Colón’s debut of Martinez’ play ‘Frida Libre’ was a resounding success.

When the curtain rises we see an angst-ridden Kahlo, swirling a bottle of tequila reposado, puffing at a cigarette and recounting her days as a young woman, her mind ablaze with socialist ideals and amorous friendship with a young Alejandro. The stage is a universe with iconic elements of her life – wheelchair, crutches, mirror – arranged to give a context of her life in Coyoacán, a small town on the outskirts of Mexico City. While Martínez is the star of the show, stage and art director Laura Villegas has done a meticulous task of organizing Frida’s shattered life into vignettes, with period clothing and mood lighting.

Then the fateful day of September 17th 1925 when a jovial 18-year old Frida was seriously injured in a horrific streetcar accident and that left her permanently disfigured. Martinez’s rendition of Frida’s emotional and physical pain is haunting and the musical score by José Reinoso, enhances this theatrical experience.

This five star performance by Flora Martínez and her rendition of Frida Libre is as much as home in the Teatro Colón, as it could be in any theatre in the world. The stage effects, sultry voice of the heroine, and chronological details brings to life the tragic events of a woman who died age 47 and tormented by her husband, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. Rivera is interpreted on the stage by the play’s director, Jimmy Rangel.

During her fractured and short life, Frida Kahlo produced some 200 paintings and was the first Latin American woman to have a major exhibition in Paris. Even though it took a long time for Kahlo to be recognised as an artist in her own right, her independent spirit and remarkable talent for painting, converted her into one of the most influential –  and mythical – artists of the contemporary world.

So “Bravo!” to Flora for this narrative, poignant acting and voice that deserves a standing ovation.

Frida Libre is an important end-of-year event for the city and runs until December 18 at the Teatro Colón. Doors to the theatre open at 7:00 pm with the show starting at 7:30 pm. There is a Sunday matinee at 3:00 pm. Tickets are priced at $30,000 and $65,000 and available at the theatre’s main box office or through tuboleta.com

Teatro Colón – Calle 10 No.5-32.