Major Operas | La Rappresentatione di Animo e di Corpo by Emilio de’ Cavalieri | Early & Middle Baroque

The Story of the Soul and the Body

Premiered: 1600, Rome
Libretto by Agostino Manni and Dorisio Isorelli


The figures of Avveduto and Prudenzio (both mean ‘Prudence’) discuss at length the various facets of human nature and appeal to the audience to learn from what they will see in this allegorical opera.

Act I

The character Tempo (Time) presents a monologue on the transience of human life and Intelletto (Intellect) discusses spiritual hopes and desires. There follows a dialogue between Corpo (Body) and Anima (Soul) about their contrasting needs. The act concludes with a chorus that discusses the role of the heavens in helping men overcome everyday obstacles and dangers.

Act II

Consiglio (Counsel) arranges a test for Anima and Corpo, in which they must resist the sins of the flesh offered by Mondo (the World) and Vita Mondana (Worldy Life). Piacere (Pleasure) appears with some cohorts and attempts to seduce Anima and Corpo. Corpo is about to give in, but Anima, disgusted, sends Piacere away. Anima appeals to the heavens for help and is answered by an echo. A guardian angel descends and assists them in resisting the temptations. The seduction ends when the silhouette of Morte (Death) is seen. Corpo laments the difficult choices he must make, and the chorus praises heavenly rewards.


Intelletto and Consiglio present the two afterlife existences. They are aided alternately in their descriptions by damned spirits (who sing in a low register) and blessed spirits (who sing at a brighter pitch). Anima, Corpo, Consiglio and Intelletto discuss each issue as it is raised. Anima and Corpo resolve to reach heaven and invite everyone to rejoice in praise of the Lord.

Personalities | Emilio de’ Cavalieri | Early & Middle Baroque | Opera


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