Vocalypse Productions will present Saint Hildegard of Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum, (ca. 1151), regarded as one of the first morality plays, and perhaps one of the first operas, along with a new work, inspired by the Bingen, by Canadian composer James Rolfe entitled O Greenest Branch.
Hildegard’s Ordo virtutum (Order of the Virtues) is the story about a young soul, Anima, who is tempted by the Devil and ventures away from the support of the Virtues into the sins of the world. Feeling ashamed about her festering wounds inflicted by the Devil, she returns to the welcome embrace and aid of the Virtues. The Devil is furious that the Soul has turned her back on him, but the Soul and the Virtues defeat him. It is ultimately a story of good and evil portrayed as a battle between a veritable army of Virtues against the personification of all Vices: the Devil.
James Rolfe’s new song cycle O Greenest Branch has been written, through a Canada Council for the Arts grant, as a companion piece to Ordo Virtutum.
In James words:
“The beauty and devotion of Hildegard’s music are still fresh today; yet, at the same time and in the same place it was created, mobs were murdering Jews in the name of Christianity. To try to reconcile the jarring dissonance between these stories, I have set to music two mediaeval Hebrew poems-which mourn the Jewish victims of Crusader massacres which occurred during Hildegard’s lifetime–alongside three texts of Hildegard and a 20th-century lament by Chaim Nachman Bialik. This work opened a door for me to deal creatively with my family history: I am descended from Rhineland Jews who survived centuries of exile and violence, from the First Crusade in 1096 through to the Holocaust. We all live in the shadow of genocide, whether it took place in Canada or elsewhere; I hope that what is personal for me will also connect to listeners.”
Our team includes:
Janice Isabel Jackson – co-director: Bingen, singer: Rolfe
Emily Jewer – co-director: Bingen, publicity
John Bogardus – organist, music director
Roberta Barker – dramaturge
Dr. Jennifer Bain – special adviser: Bingen
Janet Youngdahl – music advisor/coach: Bingen
This project is generously funded by the Canada Council for the Arts.