In a candlelit, neo-Gothic chapel at the peak of a hill overlooking the Westside and South Bay, a musical re-creation of Hildegard von Bingen's morality play, "Ordo Virtutum" (Play of the Virtues), was given Tuesday and Wednesday nights by the ensemble Sequentia.
Abbess Hildegard's 12th-Century theater piece--it works as such, though there can be no knowing how, where or in what manner it was performed in her lifetime--provided a stunning musical experience perfectly appropriate at this Lenten season.
At the Tuesday performance on the Chamber Music in Historic Sites series sponsored by the Da Camera Society of Mount St. Mary's College--for once, the college itself provided the site of one of these events--the 11-member, internationally based medieval ensemble distinguished itself in a clear, impassioned and touching revival of what is, in this realization, an 86-minute intermissionless piece.
The realization is the handiwork of Sequentia members Barbara Thornton, Margriet Tindemans and Benjamin Bagby, and follows what one assumes is the visionary composer's original concept of dramatizing temptation, worldliness and redemption through a confrontation between the human spirit, the Devil and 16 Virtues, plus a 17th character, called Knowledge of God. This production by Sequentia is in the midst of a United States tour.
Tindemans and Bagby comprise the two-member equivalent of a medieval pit band--and splendidly, through expert and apprehendable performances on medieval fiddle and harp, psalterium and organetto.
The nine female singers, especially Eileen Moore, Guillemette Laurens, Francine Watremez, Mary Westbrook-Geha and Thornton, produce handsome and mellow tone and act and dance without self-consciousness. Bagby impersonates the Devil with chilling directness. And all wear their symbolic and gorgeously executed costumes modestly.