The Heavenly City is an improvised opera based around the life of the endlessly talented and curious visionary, prophetess, composer, scientist, abbess, Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179). The action centers on what she considered the greatest vision of her life. After years of asking for permission to build her own convent, she was struck down with a vision and lay in bed for weeks. In the midst of this agony, she has a vision of the wonders of God’s city, and receives the commandment to build up a convent in its image.
Hildegard must communicate the exactness of the vision as God described it to the nine nuns. The members of her abbey attempt to build the convent from the blueprint of her vision. The job is difficult, however, because her vision for the city — described in detail in Hildegard’s book Scivias — is filled with precise directions. This process is further complicated by the presence of a personification of Migraine. This character is a personification of the modern conception championed by Oliver Sacks in his book Migraine that Hildegard’s visions were the result of the sensual distortions of a migraine.
The opera is an attempt to recreate an event in history in real-time. The performers gathered together the morning of the performance with no knowledge of the subject or content of the opera. When they gathered that morning they received the blueprint of the opera and set to work with the immediacy of Hildegard when she suddenly received her divine directive.
Hildegard von Bingen
Performed at Studio Studio Dada
Cast & Crew (Click/Tap on A Cast Member for their Bio)