Maria Juliana: The Four Seasons (1776)

1776

In 1776, a notable series of musical activities took place in the Elisabethan convent in Prague. These activities were initiated by one occasion: the 50th anniversary of Maria Deodata, the convent’s mother superior. Maria Deodata apparently had a very positive relationship to music, considering that under her direction, both convent organs were funded and built, and the large number of music compositions dedicated to her. On November 24 1776, a musical “Operetto” was performed in honor of the mother superior, most probably written by Maria Juliana (1719-c.1800), the convent’s “Chor-Regentin”.  This Elisabethan nun is therefore probably the only 18th century female composer active in the Czech lands whose large-scale composition has survived complete today.

The libretto presents the story of “Childish Love” and the stages of human life, represented by Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.

The librettist, Jesuit Rochus Elinger (1717-post 1780), was also a notable personality. Born in Vienna, he studied at Jindřichův Hradec Jesuit college, and taught poetics, logic, physics and metaphysics. After the dissolution of the Jesuit order in 1773, he became a confessor in the Elisabethan convent. This libretto is his only surviving literary work.

MOTUS HARMONICUS will present this cantata in a modern premiere performance on the same day as its original performance, 240 years ago. This notable project emphasizes the existence of a much greater number of 18th century female musicians than are generally known to the public today, including composers, instrumentalists, and choir directors. New professional female musicians from this time can still be found. While in secular society, music during this period may have been dominated by male artists, the convent created a space for women to use these talents.

Programme for 10-12 musicians: 5 singers, string ensemble, basso continuo.