Ordo Virtutum

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Ordo Virtutum (Latin for Order of the Virtues) is an allegorical morality play, or liturgical drama, by Hildegard of Bingen, composed c. 1151. It is the earliest morality play by more than a century, and the only Medieval musical drama to survive with an attribution for both the text and the music.

A short version of Ordo Virtutum without music appears at the end of Scivias, Hildegard's most famous account of her visions. It is also included in some manuscripts of the Symphonia armoniae celestium revelationum ("Symphony of the Harmony of Celestial Revelations"), a cycle of more than 70 liturgical songs. It may have been performed by the convent nuns at the dedication of the St. Rupertsberg church in 1152[1] or possibly before the Mass for the Consecration of Virgins at the convent .[2]

Plot[edit]

Ordo Virtutum is about the struggle for a human soul, or Anima, between the Virtues and the Devil. The piece can be divided as follows:[3]

Part I: Prologue in which the Virtues are introduced to the Patriarchs and Prophets who marvel at the Virtues.

Part II: We hear the complaints of souls that are imprisoned in bodies. The (for now) happy Soul enters and her voice contrasts with the unhappy souls. However, the Soul is too eager to skip life and go straight to Heaven. When the Virtues tell her that she has to live first, the Devil seduces her away to worldly things.

Part III: The Virtues take turns identifying and describing themselves while the Devil occasionally interrupts and expresses opposing views and insults.

Part IV: The Soul returns, repentant. Once the Virtues have accepted her back, they turn on the Devil, whom they bind, and then God is praised.

Part V: A procession of all the characters.

Roles[edit]

The Soul (female voice)

The Virtues (sung by 17 solo female voices): Humility (Queen of the Virtues), Hope, Chastity, Innocence, Contempt of the World, Celestial Love, Discipline? (the name is scratched out in the manuscript) Modesty, Mercy, Victory, Discretion, Patience, Knowledge of God, Charity, Fear of God, Obedience, and Faith[4]

Chorus of the Prophets and Patriarchs (sung by a male chorus)

Chorus of Souls (sung by a women’s chorus)

The Devil (a male voice)[5]

The Devil does not sing, he only yells or grunts because according to Hildegard, he cannot produce divine harmony.[6]

It has been suggested that the soul represents Richardis von Stade, Hildegard’s friend and fellow nun, who had left to become abbess of another convent. Hildegard was upset by this appointment and tried to have it revoked, appealing even to Pope Eugene III. However, Hildegard was unsuccessful and Richardis departed, only to die shortly thereafter on October 29, 1151. Before dying Richardis told her brother that she wanted to return to Hildegard, not unlike the returning, repentant Soul of Ordo Virtutum.[7]

Musical elements[edit]

Ordo Virtutum is written in dramatic verse and contains 82 different melodies, which are set more syllabically than Hildegard's liturgical songs. All parts are sung in plainchant except that of the Devil.[8] There is an alternation between solo and chorus parts as well as melismatic versus syllabic lines.[9]

Editions[edit]

  • Peter Dronke. Poetic Individuality in the Middle Ages. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970.
  • (Performing edition) Audrey Davidson. The "Ordo virtutum" of Hildegard. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute, 1985.
  • (translation) Peter Dronke. Nine Medieval Latin Plays. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
  • (Complete commented musical edition in original notation) Luca Ricossa "Hildegard von Bingen : Ordo Virtutum". Geneva, 2013.

Recordings[edit]

  • Sequentia. Hildegard von Bingen: Ordo virtutum. LP: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 20.395/96; CD: CDS 7492498; MC: 77051-4-RG (1982). Includes translation by Peter Dronke.
  • Vox Animae. Hildegard von Bingen: Ordo virtutum. CD: Etcetera Record Company BV KTC1203 (1995). Includes translation by Ansy Boothroyd and Michael Fields.
  • Sequentia. Hildegard von Bingen: Ordo virtutum. CD: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 05472 77394 2 (1997). Includes translation by Peter Dronke.
  • Vox Animae. Hildegard von Bingen in Portrait. Double DVD: BBC / OpusArte OA 0874 D (2003). Includes Hildegard, dramatised BBC documentary starring Patricia Routledge; A Real Mystic, interview and lecture with Professor Michael Fox; A Source of Inspiration, Washington National Cathedral documentary on her life and times; Illuminations, art gallery of her mystic visions with comments by Professor Michael Fox. Translation of Ordo Virtutum by Ansy Boothroyd and Michael Fields.

Media[edit]

From the Ordo Virtutum

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Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Sabina Flanagan. Secrets of God: The Writings of Hildegard of Bingen. Boston: Shambhala, 1996. Page 119.
  2. ^ Pamela Sheingorn. "The Virtues of Hildegard’s Ordo Virtutum; or, It Was a Woman’s World". The Ordo Virtutum of Hildegard of Bingen: Critical Studies. ed. Audrey Ekdahl Davidson. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1992. Page 52.
  3. ^ Audrey Ekdahl Davidson. "Music and Performance: Hildegard of Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum". The Ordo Virtutum of Hildegard of Bingen: Critical Studies. ed. Audrey Ekdahl Davidson. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1992. Pages 8-9.
  4. ^ Pamela Sheingorn. "The Virtues of Hildegard’s Ordo Virtutum; or, It Was a Woman’s World". The Ordo Virtutum of Hildegard of Bingen: Critical Studies. ed. Audrey Ekdahl Davidson. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1992. Page 48.
  5. ^ Maud Burnett McInerney. Eloquent Virgins from Thecla to Joan of Arc. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Page 137.
  6. ^ Audrey Ekdahl Davidson. "Music and Performance: Hildegard of Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum". The Ordo Virtutum of Hildegard of Bingen: Critical Studies. ed. Audrey Ekdahl Davidson. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1992. Page 12.
  7. ^ Julia Bolton Holloway. "The Monastic Context of Hildegard’s Ordo Virtutum". The Ordo Virtutum of Hildegard of Bingen: Critical Studies. ed. Audrey Ekdahl Davidson. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1992. Pages 70-1
  8. ^ Claude V. Palisca. Norton Anthology of Western Music. Vol. 1, 3rd ed. New York: Norton, 1996. Page 35.
  9. ^ Audrey Ekdahl Davidson. "Music and Performance: Hildegard of Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum". The Ordo Virtutum of Hildegard of Bingen: Critical Studies. ed. Audrey Ekdahl Davidson. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1992. Page 7.