Rappresentatione di Anima, et di Corpo 1280x680 © Franz Schwarzinger

Rappresentatione per recitar cantando in one prologue and three acts (1600)

Music by Emilio de' Cavalieri

Text by Agostino Manni mit Dorisio Isorelli

In Italian with German surtitles

New production of Theater an der Wien

Premiere: Sunday, 19 September 2021, 7 pm (no intermission)

Performances: 21 / 23 / 25 / 27 / 29 September 2021, 7 pm (no intermission)

Introduction matinée: September 19, 2021, 11 am

Synopsis

The beginning of the opera asks existential questions: How can we lead a good life? Why do people value life so much? What is good about this life on earth? Its beauty is, after all, mere illusion; it is filled with vanity, hardship and danger. Humanity’s ability to see is dimmed by sin. For that reason a stage show is needed to demonstrate that happiness is only possible by embracing God’s love. The play begins with TEMPO, Time, warning that the Day of Judgement is at hand and that hearts must reach out to God. INTELLETTO, Reason, is already convinced of it, but CORPO and ANIMA, Body and Soul, are still in disagreement. ANIMA cannot find what she needs in the world, while CORPO cannot help thinking that earthly pleasures might bring fulfilment. When ANIMA insists on following God, the Chorus adds force to her argument by praising God’s mercy. Now CORPO agrees with ANIMA. However, their accord is soon put to the test. When that happens CONSIGLIO, Counsel, is there to help. PIACERE, Pleasure, describes the beauty of nature and love, leading CORPO and ANIMA into temptation. CORPO almost surrenders to it, but ANIMA stays strong. CORPO grumbles, so ANIMA asks Heaven. Through an echo a heavenly voice supports ANIMA’s standpoint. To reinforce it further, a Guardian Angel appears because MONDO, the World, now arrives in person to counter this view with promises of glory and wealth. CORPO is on the point of surrendering to the World, and even ANIMA is contemplating a compromise between the World and God, when the Guardian Angel intervenes with cautionary words. The World now sends VITA MONDANA, Earthly Life, into the fray with all his alluring delights. But beneath the superficial sparkle of the World and Earthly Life wretched ugliness is hidden. And when this is revealed, CORPO finally turns to God once and for all. CORPO and ANIMA are invited up to Heaven as examples to humankind. There, the answers given by the damned and the blessed to the questions put to them reveal the suffering and joy of these two groups. The spectacle ends with a celebration in praise of God.

 

Emilio de’ Cavalieri spent his whole life switching between earthly splendour and pious reflection like the allegorical characters in his work. In 1600, when he wrote the Rappresentatione di Anima et di Corpo for the festivities marking the holy year in Rome, he had given up his numerous responsibilities as master of ceremonies at the court of Ferdinando de’ Medici in Florence where a group of intellectuals, the Florentine Camerata, had come up with ideas to revive Greek-style drama that eventually led to the development of opera. Cavalieri’s Rappresentatione combines the medieval mystery play, the Jesuit drama of the Counter-Reformation and the ideas of the Florentine Camerata. In his work of dialogue and allegory Cavalieri uses the “stile recitativo”, a type of sung speech developed by the group. So while the Rappresentatione is neither an opera nor an oratorio it is the root of both and the first surviving complete work of musical theatre. It was first performed in the oratory of the Brotherhood of St. Philip Neri, who had only recently died in 1595 and had cultivated a lively form of instruction for the laity with music complementing Latin sermons. Accordingly, the Rappresentatione is structured as a carefully thought-out interlocking allegorical abstraction: the spoken prologue puts forward a hypothesis which the three acts that follow, artfully stylised through music, prove to be true. Cavalieri’s compositional strength lies in the varied arrangement of the choruses, instrumental pieces, ensembles and use of dance rhythms. The highlights are the echo from heaven, the figure of Piacere and the questioning of the damned and blessed. A foreword is appended to the score in which Cavalieri defends his aim of making spiritual edification as entertaining as possible: a libretto, he writes, should contain no more than 700 verses and the singers should be sparing in their embellishments and take care to articulate clearly because music with incomprehensible lyrics is tedious and leads to rejection by audiences. Cavalieri makes some recommendations for orchestration but leaves the musical director considerable freedom, thus making him a central figure in the arrangement of the production.

Cast

Conductor

Giovanni Antonini

Biography
Director, Set & light design

Robert Carsen

Biography
Stage design

Robert Carsen & Luis F. Carvalho

Biography
Costume design

Luis F. Carvalho

Biography
Choreography

Lorena Randi

Biography
Light design

Robert Carsen und Peter van Praet

Biography
Dramaturgy

Ian Burton

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Anima, die Seele

Anett Fritsch

Biography
Corpo, der Körper

Daniel Schmutzhard

Biography
Intelletto, der Verstand

Cyril Auvity

Biography
Consiglio, der gute Rat

Florian Boesch

Biography
Tempo, die Zeit / Mondo, die Welt

Georg Nigl

Biography
Piacere, das Vergnügen

Margherita Maria Sala

Biography
Compagni di piacere

Matúš Šimko, Michal Marhold

Biography
Angelo custode, der Schutzengel

Carlo Vistoli

Biography
Vita mondana, das weltliche Leben / Anima beata, die glückliche Seele

Giuseppina Bridelli

Biography
Orchestra

Il Giardino Armonico

Biography
Choir

Arnold Schoenberg Chor (Ltg. Erwin Ortner)

Biography

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