Electric Ordo Virtutum

Innova 712


1.      Prologue                     2:51

           Hildegard of Bingen

2.     Act I                                13:56

           Hildegard/Lisa Bielawa

3.     Act II                             17:49

           Hildegard/Kitty Brazelton

4.     Act III                           15:05

           Hildegard/Eve Beglarian

5.     Act IV                           19:52

           Hildegard/Elaine Kaplinsky

           in collaboration with the Hildegurls

6.    Processional        3:39

                           Hildegard of Bingen

Known as "the Sybil of the Rhine," Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) was a German abbess, mystic and writer.  She was born to noble parents, who promised her, their tenth child, to the church.  At the age of eight, she became a novice under the abbess Jutta of Spanheim at the Benedictine Abbey of Disibodenberg.  On Jutta's death in 1136, Hildegard succeeded her as abbess.  About fifteen years later, she founded her own independent abbey, against the wishes of the local Church authorities.


Although Hildegard was highly educated, she saw herself primarily as the instrument of God's will.  Throughout her life, she experienced apocalyptic, prophetic and symbolic visions that she eventually codified in three large books.  Hildegard's writings include theological, medical and botanical essays.  She also wrote lyric works, letters, lives of saints and the morality play Ordo Virtutum, or The Order of the Virtues.  About eighty of her vocal compositions survive.


Hildegard's Ordo Virtutum relates the dramatic struggle between a Soul, the Devil and a host of allegorical Virtues.  The dramatic text and vocal setting are fully notated.  Since sacred vocal music of the time was accompanied by instruments, it is likely that the Ordo would have been as well.  The cast calls for 20 female singing roles (the Soul and Virtues), a few male singing roles (Prophets and Patriarchs), and the non-singing role of the Devil (which may have been played by Volmar, Hildegard's secretary).  The piece was presumably performed by the nuns in Hildegard's convent.  It appears to be the oldest surviving Western work of what may be called musical theater or opera.


In each act (except II), the Hildegurl who composed/arranged that section appears as the protagonist, the Soul.  (The Soul is not present in Act II, since she is off in Hell, away from the Virtues.)  As Hildegard specifies, the Devil only speaks (and that largely on tape).  For his grievous error, God has denied him the power and beauty of song.




Hildegurls Electric Ordo Virtutum was developed in workshop at American Opera Projects and received its world premiere at Lincoln Center Festival 1998.  It was also presented at the World Financial Center Winter Garden and Edgewood College, Madison, Wisconsin.


Director: Grethe Barrett Holby

Set Design: Franco Colavecchia with Paula Sjšblom

Costume Design: Melissa Bruning

Lighting Design: Marcus Doshi


The Hildegurls would like to thank those whose work helped make the production possible, among them: Hillary Jackson; Treva Offutt; Kyler Brown for vocal coaching; Margo Manhattan Jewelry; Adriano Fagundes for photography; Sheldon Steiger; Hugo Dwyer for mastering; The Source, Unltd. for CD duplication; Jay Cloidt; and Mary Jane Leach.


Others assisted with specific sections of the piece:

„ Act I: Eve Beglarian for engineering, technical consulting, and post-production. Richard Einhorn for multi-track engineering.

Acts II & IV: Brad Garton & Columbia University Computer Music Center for use of CMIX and SGI Workstations.

„ Act III: Robin Lorentz, violin.

„ Act IV: John Halle for programming assistance (MIDI wands), David First for DX-7 sample.

Hildegurls thanks Audrey Ekdahl Davidson, Bruce Hozeski, and Gunilla Iversen for their edition of Ordo Virtutum, used with the kind permission of Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University.


Special thanks to American Opera Projects, in particular Grethe Barrett Holby and Charles Jarden, for their invaluable dedication and support throughout the development of the production.

Photos: Stephanie Berger, © 2008.  Copyright belongs to Stephanie Berger. 

All Rights Reserved. 

Disc photo: Daphne Youree


Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.

This release is supported in part by a grant from the New York State Music Fund,

established by the New York State Attorney General at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.


Innova director, design: Philip Blackburn

Operations Manager: Chris Campbell         www.innova.mu