I am getting ready for my first performance of Hildegard von Bingen’s opera, Ordo Virtutum (Order of the Virtues). I play the lead role of the Soul, alternating the role with my wonderful colleague and friend Alice del Simone. My first performance is this Saturday, August 19th in San Francisco at 4pm at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation at 1750 29th Avenue, San Francisco. Tickets can be purchased HERE.
This has been a very spiritual and uplifting journey for me in learning this role. First of all, it has been the hardest thing in my whole career that I have ever had to memorize! Hildegard von Bingen writes in chants, and this was way before key signatures and time signatures were invented to organize music as we know it today, or even as we knew it in the classical period. So our brains (or at least my brain) had a hard time putting together the patterns in a way that I could memorize. But eventually, with repetition and better understanding of the composer, I was able to understand her amazing composing style and become one with the music. As one of my colleagues said to me, singing and learning this music is like yoga. You need to become one with it and then it just flows out of you. Each chant has its own style, its own rhythm, its own spirit, and its own heartbeat. Once that chant gets inside your mind and body, our job as the singer, is to just bring it to life. It’s almost like channelling from a time, back in the 1100’s, and connecting to it on a spiritual level and then here it is, now, these gorgeous heavenly chants.
My character of the Soul goes through an incredible journey. As an etherial soul, her young spirit yearns to see the world that God made and leave the spiritual plane; leave her virtue sisters and explore. The devil notices her curiosity and lures her in, promising her that the world has everything she is looking for. After seeing how difficult and hard the world is without a connection to God, she returns to the virtues, in utter despair and eventually becomes one with God again and beats her daemon. What a wonderful message that is always relevant. The light is always stronger than the dark, and the light after going through the dark and then shining again, is even stronger. How timely also with the upcoming solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st! Even after the sun gives up its light to the dark moon for a bit of time, the sun (light) will always prevail and become even stronger after cleansing the dark and become brighter after winning over the dark. Even when we go through hard times, the light will always prevail. We just need to get up again and keep shining. A similar message that came to me is the beautiful phrase, “this, too, shall pass.”
This east-Indian infused production is joined by the beautiful San Francisco Renaissance Dancers, and heavenly music:
Deepak Ram, bansuri master & Diana Rowan, Celtic harper, Todd Jolly, percussionist, with San Francisco Renaissance Dancers under the direction of Jennifer Meller with guest choreographer Kaveri Seth
I hope to see you at this uplifting and inspiring performance!