Peabody Chamber Opera presents

Ordo Virtutum

A Dramatic Ritual in Music by

Hildegard von Bingen

Roger Brunyate, stage director

Webb Wiggins and Mark Cudek, musical directors

Friday & Saturday, February 18–19, 2005 at 7:30 PM
Emmanuel Episcopal Church
811 Cathedral Street
Baltimore, Maryland
Admission free
For information call 410/659-8100 x2, or eMail the Peabody Box Office

Ordo Virtutum review        Current season calendar

Back to the Source: In an article written for the first Peabody presentation of this work, director Roger Brunyate discusses the origin of Hildegard’s masterpiece, and some of the musical, dramatic, and doctrinal choices that had to be made in interpreting it for contemporary audiences.

In 1998, to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the birth of the German mystic, poet, and composer Hildegard von Bingen, the Peabody Chamber Opera presented a staged production of her masterpiece, the morality play Ordo Virtutum, or “The Company of the Virtues.” Such was the response to that single performance that we have long been looking for an opportunity to repeat it with a new generation of singers. Now we have a chance to do so, in the same inspiring setting as before, the nave of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, this time for two performances.

The story of the Ordo Virtutum is simple. A Soul, still imprisoned in the human body which she must wear on her journey through life, presents herself to the Virtues to be accepted into heaven. But the Virtues offer no easy apotheosis. All they can promise is their help in fighting the temptations of the world through which the Soul must still pass. Disappointed, the Soul feels she can no longer resist the world’s blandishments, and leaves in the company of the ever-present Devil. The Virtues mourn her defection but find strength in their ability to work together to the glory of God. When the Soul returns, besmirched but penitent, they accept her back, and together they help her conquer the Devil.

The play was written around 1150 for the religious community in the Rhineland where Hildegard was Abbess. The single goal of life in such a community is to study how to come closer to God. The seventeen Virtues depicted by Hildegard are not abstractions but role-models, reminders of the constant struggle on the part of all these women to overcome their own weaknesses, and their delight in being offered the privilege of doing so. Yes, delight. For as one reads Hildegard’s incandescent words and listens to rapturously soaring lines of her music, one quickly comes to realize that the Ordo Virtutum is no mere didactic morality, but a spiritual celebration — a joyous, transcendent ritual which we may not understand in detail, but whose overall dedication, surety, and exaltation affects us in ways that go beyond mere words, lessons, or even narrative. Though deeply rooted in Catholic Christianity, it emerges as a celebration of goodness and of life, embracing qualities common to many faiths.

Singers in this Production

Jennifer Bowman (The Soul)
Erin Brittain
Jason Buckwalter (The Devil)
Darci Crum
Caitlin Donovan
Kristen Dubenion-Smith (The Abbess)
Rebecca Duren
Elisabeth Halliday
Sarah Hershman
Angela Hodgins
Elizabeth Randel
Ronni Jane Reich
Tara Stafford