Rappresentatione di Anima et di Corpo 1280x680 © Werner Kmetitsch

Rappresentatione per recitar cantando in one prologue and three acts (1600)

Music by Emilio de' Cavalieri

Text by Agostino Manni mit Dorisio Isorelli

In Italian with German surtitles

New production of Theater an der Wien

Premiere: Sunday, 19 September 2021, 7 pm until 8.30 pm (no intermission)

Performances: 21 / 23 / 25 / 27 / 29 September 2021, 7 pm (no intermission)

Introduction matinée: September 19, 2021, 11 am


The beginning of the opera asks existential questions: How can we lead a good life? Why do people value life so much? What is good about this life on earth? Its beauty is, after all, mere illusion; it is filled with vanity, hardship and danger. Humanity’s ability to see is dimmed by sin. For that reason a stage show is needed to demonstrate that happiness is only possible by embracing God’s love. The play begins with TEMPO, Time, warning that the Day of Judgement is at hand and that hearts must reach out to God. INTELLETTO, Reason, is already convinced of it, but CORPO and ANIMA, Body and Soul, are still in disagreement. ANIMA cannot find what she needs in the world, while CORPO cannot help thinking that earthly pleasures might bring fulfilment. When ANIMA insists on following God, the Chorus adds force to her argument by praising God’s mercy. Now CORPO agrees with ANIMA. However, their accord is soon put to the test. When that happens CONSIGLIO, Counsel, is there to help. PIACERE, Pleasure, describes the beauty of nature and love, leading CORPO and ANIMA into temptation. CORPO almost surrenders to it, but ANIMA stays strong. CORPO grumbles, so ANIMA asks Heaven. Through an echo a heavenly voice supports ANIMA’s standpoint. To reinforce it further, a Guardian Angel appears because MONDO, the World, now arrives in person to counter this view with promises of glory and wealth. CORPO is on the point of surrendering to the World, and even ANIMA is contemplating a compromise between the World and God, when the Guardian Angel intervenes with cautionary words. The World now sends VITA MONDANA, Earthly Life, into the fray with all his alluring delights. But beneath the superficial sparkle of the World and Earthly Life wretched ugliness is hidden. And when this is revealed, CORPO finally turns to God once and for all. CORPO and ANIMA are invited up to Heaven as examples to humankind. There, the answers given by the damned and the blessed to the questions put to them reveal the suffering and joy of these two groups. The spectacle ends with a celebration in praise of God.


Emilio de’ Cavalieri spent his whole life switching between earthly splendour and pious reflection like the allegorical characters in his work. In 1600, when he wrote the Rappresentatione di Anima et di Corpo for the festivities marking the holy year in Rome, he had given up his numerous responsibilities as master of ceremonies at the court of Ferdinando de’ Medici in Florence where a group of intellectuals, the Florentine Camerata, had come up with ideas to revive Greek-style drama that eventually led to the development of opera. Cavalieri’s Rappresentatione combines the medieval mystery play, the Jesuit drama of the Counter-Reformation and the ideas of the Florentine Camerata. In his work of dialogue and allegory Cavalieri uses the “stile recitativo”, a type of sung speech developed by the group. So while the Rappresentatione is neither an opera nor an oratorio it is the root of both and the first surviving complete work of musical theatre. It was first performed in the oratory of the Brotherhood of St. Philip Neri, who had only recently died in 1595 and had cultivated a lively form of instruction for the laity with music complementing Latin sermons. Accordingly, the Rappresentatione is structured as a carefully thought-out interlocking allegorical abstraction: the spoken prologue puts forward a hypothesis which the three acts that follow, artfully stylised through music, prove to be true. Cavalieri’s compositional strength lies in the varied arrangement of the choruses, instrumental pieces, ensembles and use of dance rhythms. The highlights are the echo from heaven, the figure of Piacere and the questioning of the damned and blessed. A foreword is appended to the score in which Cavalieri defends his aim of making spiritual edification as entertaining as possible: a libretto, he writes, should contain no more than 700 verses and the singers should be sparing in their embellishments and take care to articulate clearly because music with incomprehensible lyrics is tedious and leads to rejection by audiences. Cavalieri makes some recommendations for orchestration but leaves the musical director considerable freedom, thus making him a central figure in the arrangement of the production.



Giovanni Antonini

Director, Set & light design

Robert Carsen

Stage design

Robert Carsen & Luis F. Carvalho

Costume design

Luis F. Carvalho


Lorena Randi

Light design

Robert Carsen und Peter van Praet


Ian Burton

Anima, die Seele

Anett Fritsch

Corpo, der Körper

Daniel Schmutzhard

Intelletto, der Verstand

Cyril Auvity

Consiglio, der gute Rat

Florian Boesch

Tempo, die Zeit / Mondo, die Welt

Georg Nigl

Piacere, das Vergnügen

Margherita Maria Sala

Compagni di piacere

Matúš Šimko, Michal Marhold

Angelo custode, der Schutzengel

Carlo Vistoli

Vita mondana, das weltliche Leben / Anima beata, die glückliche Seele

Giuseppina Bridelli


Il Giardino Armonico


Arnold Schoenberg Chor (Ltg. Erwin Ortner)


Photos Gallery

Rappresentatione di Anima et di Corpo

Premiere: 19 September 2021

Director: Robert Carsen

Stage designer: Robert Carsen & Luis F. Carvalho

Costume designer: Luis F. Carvalho

Light designer: Robert Carsen und Peter van Praet

Photos: (c) Werner Kmetitsch