Ordo Virtutum - Hildegard von Bingen
Musical direction: Rebecca Bain
Staging: Anne Sophie da Silva

On the 1st of May in the year 1152, on a hill called Rupertsberg, a new female monastery was consecrated with great ceremony under the auspices of the Archbishop of Mainz. The founder of this new community was a woman whose renown was spreading through Europe, a woman whose accomplishments went far beyond those of any ordinary medieval clergyman, let alone woman. Today, Hildegard von Bingen is one of the most recognizable medieval women, famous for her visionary writings and paintings, medical treatises, as well as over 70 musical compositions.

The Rupertsberg consecration ceremony likely included the first performance of Hildegard's "Play of the Virtues", the Ordo Virtutum, and the performers would have been the nuns under Hildegard's charge. Inspired by the "burning fire of the Holy Spirit", which visited Hildegard throughout her life in the form of complex visions, the play presents the universal struggle of a soul who must choose between life's transient pleasures and the glory of the virtues. An early form of opera, the play's only spoken character is that of the devil, while the heroine and those who would lead her down a brighter path - a cast of virtues lead by their queen Humility, sing their lines in a poetic Latin that is unique to Hildegard. In all of her works, Hildegard's voice - divinely inspired or not - was highly original, perhaps most evidently in the way she played with and combined melody and poetry.

Hildegard's talents and contributions to Christendom have long been championed by historians, feminists, musicians and others, and will finally be officially recognized this year by the Roman Catholic Church, as it accords her the rare title of Doctor of the Church. Ensemble Scholastica will be celebrating this great achievement by presenting Hildegard's Ordo Virtutum at the Montreal Medieval Festival (part of the Montreal Baroque Festival) in June 2012. Centered as always on the choral and solo work of Ensemble Scholastica's female voices, this performance will include medieval instruments and guest male voices (from ensemble Deus ex Machina, under Alain Vadeboncoeur), costumes and staging. Ensemble Scholastica's director Rebecca Bain first gained intimate knowledge of the Ordo after working on a acclaimed world-touring production of the play for Hildegard's 900th anniversary in 1998 with Hildegard specialist, the late Barbara Thornton of Ensemble Sequentia. This year, Ensemble Scholastica and Deus ex Machina hope to similarly inspire Quebec audiences with Hildegard's sublime melodies and unique genius.

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