Opera Scotland

Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo La rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo; Representation of the Soul and Body

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Emilio de’ Cavalieri (born Rome, c1550; died Rome, 11 March 1602)


Agostino Manni





First performance: Rome (Oratorio di Santa Maria in Vallicella, Chiesa Nuova), February 1600.

First UK performance: Cambridge (Girton College), June 1949.

First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (St Mary’s Cathedral), 24 August 1972.

Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.



Cavalieri divided his career between Rome, where the emphasis was on religious music, and Florence, where the highlight of his career was his involvement in the creation of the Florentine Intermedi, a group of brief stage works, to celebrate a grand Medici wedding in 1589. As well as composing some of the music, he seems to have been co-ordinator of the event. He eventually returned to Rome, where La rappresentatione was highly successful in a simply staged form. It is an allegorical drama, and for Scottish audiences has some interesting parallels (including opposing characters of Good Counsel and Pleasure) with the drama of Sir David Lyndsey, Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaites, written over half a century earlier. That work was mainly spoken, though there are opportunities for interspersing elements of song and dance in the fashion of a masque.


Main Characters

Body (baritone)

Soul (soprano)

Good Counsel (bass)

Intellect (tenor)

Time (bass)

Pleasure (mezzo-soprano)


Plot Summary

Time enters, summoning souls to take up their bodies once again and tell us whether a life of worldly vanities is better than a more spiritual model.  Intellect rejects the vain pleasures of life, wishing only to be united with God. Body enters, and asks why Soul is so miserable. She longs for peace and rest, but finds only trouble and irritation. Body takes pleasure in his senses, which Soul rejects, and suggests that Soul should take pleasure in her own beauty. But she is tired of that as well, and urges that Body should be thinking of more elevated matters. Body is enjoying the pleasures of life, but worried about eternity. He therefore agrees with Soul to consult a higher authority, in the form of Good Counsel. However Body is soon distracted by the simple enjoyment offered by Pleasure and her companions. Soul is shocked at Body’s changeability, and decrees that Pleasure only offers trickery. Rejected, they go off to find someone who will better appreciate them, and Body is rather reluctant to see them go. The next encounter is with the Guardian Angel, who congratulates them on their success, and offers to accompany them in their next trials. World now arrives, offering worldly wealth. He disputes with the Angel, who advises Soul and Body that they can only serve one master, God. World is now reinforced by Worldly Life, both richly dressed, but the Angel answers with the old saying that all that glisters is not gold. He encourages Soul to give them a stern answer. Their rich clothing is stripped off, revealing World to be filthy and dressed in rags, while Worldly Life is a skeleton. Body and Soul are now urged by Angels to ascend to Paradise, and Intellect and Counsel second these urgings, by contrasting the differences between Heaven and Hell. Damned Spirits in Hell give evidence of their dreadful situation, and Blessed Spirits respond with an account of their joyful existence. The work ends with a conclusion that Body and Soul should continue their search for enlightenment.

The Cast

Angelo custode
 Guardian Angel
Angels and Heavenly Voices
Anima beata
 Blessed Soul
Anima dannata
 Damned Soul
 Good Counsel
Pleasure's Companions
Vita mondana
 Worldly Life

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