La Vita Humana
ovvero Il Trionfo della Pietà
libretto by Giulio Rospigliosi, music by Marco Marazzoli
first performed in Rome at the Palazzo Barberini alle Quatro Fontane on 31 January 1656 for Queen Christina of Sweden
first revival at Glasgow's Tramway on August 9th 1990
note: A new edition of the words and music of 'La Vita Humana' was made for this production by Warwick Edwards and others. For more information contact Kate Brown on firstname.lastname@example.org
or Dr Edwards at the Department of Music at Glasgow University.
|"An Operatic Pilgrim's Progress"|
|"The Barberini and Roman Theatre"|
Scene: Winter; a road that leads between two opposing castles.
Prologue: Aurora greets the spectators and introduces the story. As the sun rises, her attendants gradually reveal themselves in their true colours.
Act One: Innocenza greets the morning, waking Colpa. Challenges are issued, battle lines are drawn: 'Lice se piace' - it is permitted if it pleases, versus 'Piace se lice' - it pleases if it is permitted.
Vita and her companion Intendimento arrive at the pass between the two castles. He tries to warn her of the possible dangers on the road, she says she has heard it all before. The sentinels sing to her. Curious, she asks them questions, and strange echoes from within the castles answer her in cryptic fashion. The echoes reveal themselves to be Innocenza and Colpa, who vie for Vita's attention. Listening too eagerly to Colpa, she discovers a mark on her dress. Innocenza tells her that this can only be washed away by tears of repentance, but Vita is not inclined to shed these at the moment. 'Am I not free to act as I wish?' she asks, and Innocenza must agree.
Alone, Innocenza regrets Vita's easy dismissal of good advice; meanwhile Colpa and her sidekick Piacere plan the assault on Intendimento. Piacere seduces Intendimento with impeccable logic: Intendimento declares 'I see the evil that I do, and I choose it freely'. The act ends with a martial dance, Virtues against Vices - who will win?
Act Two: Piacere now tempts Vita: she resists for a long time, but without Intendimento's support she finds the argument difficult to sustain. Colpa and her Vices exult, quoting Caesar: 'We came, we saw, we conquered'. Intendimento, however, prompted by heavenly voices, is having second thoughts, but his penitence is as extreme as his fall, and as unbalance. The voices speak to Vita too, but until she freely chooses to reject evil and follow good, Innocenza is powerless to help her. They are not out of Guilt's net yet, and Intendimento is near despair.
Innocenza tries to persuade Vita to stop yearning after Pleasure, and cites famous examples of women who have given up worldly delights for the joys of the spirit: St Brigitta of Sweden, who came to Rome centuries ago, and her present successor who 'brings from the icy North her heart of fire' - Christina, who is there in the audience watching.
Piacere and Colpa realise that a further effort is required to secure the downfall of Vita and Intendimento: they hatch a new plot, designed to confound Vita utterly, and rob her finally of all capacity to distinguish between illusion and reality, truth and falsehood.
The trusting, easy relationship between Vita and Intendimento has broken down under so much stress: Intendimento cannot work out what is happening; 'Am I not free to follow my own desires?' and Vita is totally confused and the collapse of one who was so strong and sure. Intendimento throws all to the winds, deciding to drown his sorrows in pleasures - Vita is left in despair, as the dark night falls.
Act Three: In the middle of night and winter, a strange garden blooms: Piacere brings Colpa and the mad Intendimento to his lair. Despairing, Intendimento drinks from Piacere's fountain, sinks into exhausted sleep, and is callously left alone to be found by Vita, who thinks him dead. Her cries for help are heard by Innocenza, who may only intervene when expressly asked. She breaks the enchantment, waking Intendimento, and dispelling its lingering effects by presenting him with a ring depicting a skull: 'Death is the mirror of life; if you remember always that you must die then you will be able to withstand all the assaults of evil.'
But Piacere and Colpa have one last weapon. They appear in the identical forms of Intendimento and Innocenza. Vita, completely lost, not knowing what is illusion and what reality, calls at last to heaven to reveal the truth. Innocenza responds with the words from the liturgy of the Easter Vigil at the moment marking the Resurrection: Christ lives, Christ reigns, Christ will conquer.
A vision of Salvation confounds the forces of evil, and the winter desolation is transformed by the true Spring.
Our production was sung in Italian, and each act was introduced by a short dialogue in English between actors representing the chief personages at the first performance:
Christina, formerly queen of Sweden - Katy Duke
Cardinal Don Antonio Barberini - Sean Simpson
Giulio Rospigliosi - Alan Caig Wilson
The Irish Clerk - Paul Featherstone
Attendants to Christina - Rosina Bonsu, Mary Niblett
L'Aurora (Dawn) - Malin Görup
L'Innocenza (Innocence) - Lorna Anderson
La Colpa (Guilt) - Eleanor Bennett
La Vita (Life) - Jill Feldman
L'Intendimento (Understanding) - Stuart Patterson
Il Piacere (Pleasure) - Douglas Nasrawi
Sentinella della Colpa (Sentinel on Guilt's castle) - Graham Russell
Sentinella dell'Innocenza (Sentinel on Innocenza's castle) - Camilla Johansen
Candore (Honesty) - Katarina Hansson
Carità (Charity) - Viveca Axell
Costanza (Constancy) - Mimmi Nilsdotter
Fede (Faith) - Malin Görup
Patienza (Patience) - Nicholas Macklon
Pentimento (Repentance) - Camilla Johansen
Speranza (Hope) - Susan Hamilton
Zelo (Zeal) - Geraint Hylton Roberts
Concupiscenza (Lust) - Carole Irvine
Frode (Fraud) - Graham Russell
Infidelità (Infidelity) - Lars Hedström
Invidia (Envy) - Cesare Righetti
Ira (Wrath) - Clare Bovill
Orgoglio (Pride) - Dennis Haggerty
Dancers: Il Ballarino (Florence)
Alessandro Ciardini, Giovanni Franzoni, Bruna Gondoni, Marco Mazzoni, Monica Miglioli, Marina Nordera, Paolo Pagni
Theorbo - Jakob Lindberg
Archlute - Linda Sayce
Harp - Delyth Wynne
Harpsichords - Lucy Carolan, John Kitchen
Cello - Marjore Rycroft
Violone - Warwick Edwards
Violins - Christopher Field, Richard Gwilt
Cornetti and Trumpets - Michael Laird, John A. Sampson
Director - Kate Brown
Designer - Tim Northam
Choreographer - Andrea Francalanci
Lighting - Ace McCarron
Musical Direction - Warwick Edwards
Musical score prepared from the original sources by Warwick Edwards with assistance from Silke Leopold and Evelyn Stell; edition cut for performance by Kate Brown and Warwick Edwards; working translation of libretto prepared by Angela Voss.
Virtues and Vices from the Musikhögskolan in Malmö, Sweden, and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow.