La Baltasara
ovvero La Comica del Cielo

libretto by Giulio Rospigliosi, music by Antonio Maria Abbattini

first performed in Rome at the Palazzo Rospigliosi during Carnival 1668

first revival at Glasgow's Tramway on August 13th 1992

note: A new edition of the words and music of 'La Baltasara' was prepared for this production by Warwick Edwards. For more information contact Kate Brown by emailing

or Dr Edwards at the Department of Music at Glasgow University.

Cast List
Baltasara and Rospigliosi


Act One: The Theatre

Alone in her dressing room, the actress Baltasara is tormented by anxieties. She tries to shrug them off - "Am I not Baltasara?" - but cannot. Her colleague Beatrice arrives, dressed to go onstage: "Not ready yet, Baltasara?". Rodrico and Alvero, two cavaliers who have come to see the play, compare notes on it and the objects of their love, Beatrice and Baltasara.

The play begins. It is the story of the Saracen Clorinda and the crusade led by Godfrey of Boulogne to liberate Jerusalem from the infidels. Beatrice sings Vittoria in its Prologue, after which enters Aladino, Saracen King of Jerusalem, with Ismeno his counsellor and wizard. Ismeno promises enchantments to fend off the crusaders, Aladino simply promises a good fight.

Next Biscotto plays a none-too-competent Christian soldier accompanied by his truculent subordinate (Lisa in drag): "Jerusalem can sleep safely with you to attack it", as she says.

Baltasara launches prematurely into her big scene, to consternation backstage. An actor pulls her off, she apologises, and the play continues with Hircano, a Saracen captain, exhorting his soldiers to fight.

Baltasara as Clorinda now enters correctly: she challenges Godfrey and his champions. She hears a sentry singing on the walls of the city: "Life is short, use it well", and starts to think: This is God speaking to me, Baltasara. He sings again, she takes it as a call to repent, and abruptly leaves the stage.

Alvero and Rodrico call after her from the audience. Her fellow-actors have their say: Lisa wants her back, Biscotto thinks she's stubborn, Beatrice always thought she was daft. Lisa and other members of the troupe explain what's happened to the audience by singing a five-part madrigal on which sundry specatators comment. Aladino, unmasked, has the last word.

Act Two: The Desert

Baltasara has found repose in the desert close by the sea. Lisa and Biscotto arrive looking for her. Lisa: "this is a landscape for repentance - I'm starving!". Biscotto: "But you've always got your Biscuit...". He sees writing on a tree. It says that Baltasara is dead. Lisa reads it properly: No, only dead to the world.

Baltasara reveals herself, and Lisa and Biscotto beg her to come back for the sake of her public. As well as losing her they have also lost Beatrice who has gone off to sea with an infidel, pursued by Rodrico. Failing to persuade her, Lisa and Biscotto leave wearily to look for lodgings.

The Devil appears, prowling. He spots Alvero looking for his lover and sees his chance. "What will you give me if I show you Baltasara?", "Everything I possess!". The Devil is satisfied and leads him to Baltasara.

Alvero proclaims his love for Baltasara. She resists, then starts to follow him. A vision of the cross miraculously blocks her way. She thanks God for her narrow escape. Alvero, bitter, ignores the Devil's scorn and decides to go to sea with Rodrico.

Biscotto returns, dressed up as a hermit. Lisa arrives, calling for horses to take her back to civilisation. She asks the hermit if he's seen Biscotto and he reveals himself. But he's decided to stay, as Baltsara might need him, so Lisa decides to stay too.

Baltasara, fasting, falls asleep exhausted. The Devil and his cohorts prepare temptations for her - visions of fame, celebrity, adulation: she wakes up, sees them, resists the Devil's lure back to the city, then falters and accepts a refreshing drink. She blesses it first, however: the cup falls and the enchantments disappear.

The Devil is reduced to offering sweets to Lisa, who refuses them, and to Biscotto who takes them and then wishes he hadn't, they are so bitter. Lisa sings that all is not gold that glisters, and the act ends with menacing figures seen dancing across the waves as the Corsairs land.

Act Three: The Coast

Biscotto and Lisa are fishing.  They watch an infidel ship pursued and sunk by a Christian one. A Turkish survivor comes ashore. She turns out to be Beatrice, distraught at the loss of her corsair lover. Biscotto and Lisa follow her. Rodrico , having dispatched his rival suitor on his ship, is also after Beatrice. He is angry, though he can't rid his heart of remnants of love.

Baltasara and Beatrice each talk to themselves as darkness falls. Baltasara perceives the night as full of eternal harmony, Beatrice as abhorrent. Baltasara hears the other voice, and too weak from continual fasting to move, calls Biscotto for help. They discover Beatrice whose deep despair turns to tranquillity as she listens to Baltasara and joins her in a song of praise.

Rodrico catches up with Beatrice and attempts to murder her. Baltasara intervenes and sends Beatrice with Biscotto to find a priest to bear witness to the coming events, while a dazzled Rodrico goes off to find Alvero.

Left alone, Baltasara cries out to go to Heaven, and is echoed.  The echoes turn out to be Beatrice transformed into Penitenza who crowns Baltasara with roses. Together they sing: "Death on earth is no death at all but unlocks the gates of Heaven."

Penitenza triumphantly orders a disconsolate Devil back to Hell - at last Beatrice may play the warrior's part she always coveted.

Lisa arrives with Alvero and Rodrico.  They find Baltasara dead. Lisa and Alvero are inconsolable, while Rodrico, ever practical, proposes they build her a tomb. The witnesses arrive and angels sing: "Welcome to the theatres of Paradise".

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Glasgow International Early Music Festival 1992

cast list

Our production was sung in Italian, and each act was introduced by a short dialogue in English between actors representing the author and an opponent, arguing about the nature of theatre.

Giulio Rospigliosi, Pope Clement IX - Alan Caig Wilson

An Irish cleric - Paul Featherstone

Baltasara, an actress - Janis Kelly

Beatrice, an actress - Tinuke Olafimihan

Rodrico, cavalier and lover of Beatrice - Stuart Patterson

Alvero, cavalier and lover of Baltasara - Francesc Garrigosa

Biscotto, an actor - Alan Watt

Lisa, an actress - Eleanor Bennett

The Devil in various disguises - Henry Herford

Spectators, Members of the Troupe, Devils, Angels:

Ann Archibald, Jeni Bern, Clare Bovill, Gavin Cuthbertson, Jane Elders, Richard Burkhard, Dennis Haggerty, Geraint Hylton

Members of the Troupe, Devils, Angels:

Il Ballerino (Florence): director Andrea Francalanci

Marco Bendoni, Bruna Gondoni, Arnaud Loison, Monica Miglioli, Marina Nordera, Romina Pidone

Orange sellers:

Lieven Baert, Eric Jorissen, Tina Plisch, Chris Vandoren

Characters in the play of Clorinda in Act I, in order of appearance:

Vittoria - Tinuke Olafimihan

Aladino, Saracen King of Jerusalem - Henry Herford

Ismeno, the King's counsellor and wizard - Geraint Hylton

Christian Soldiers - Alan Watt and Eleanor Bennett

Clorinda, a Saracen warrior - Janis Kelly

Hircano, a Saracen captain - Gavin Cuthbertson

A sqaud of Saracen soldiers: Richard Burkhard, Dennis Haggerty, Geraint Hylton, Il Ballarino

Sentry on the Walls of Jerusalem - Dennis Haggerty


Harpsichords - John Kitchen, David McGuinness

Theorbo, Guitar - William Carter

Chitarrone - Lynda Sayce

Cello - Marjorie Rycroft

Violone - Warwick Edwards

Obbligati Instruments:

Violins - Lucy Russell, Gregory Squire

Violin/ Viola - Kenneth Mitchell


Trumpets - Iain Muirhead, Christopher Dicken, Robert Baxter

Timpani - Alan Emslie

Producer - Kate Brown

Musical Direction - Warwick Edwards

Choreographer - Andrea Francalanci

Designer - Louise Belson

Lighting - Ace McCarron

Assistant producer - Alan Caig Wilson

Performing materials prepared from the original score and libretti in the Vatican Library by Warwick Edwards. Edition cut for performance by Kate Brown and Warwick Edwards. Working translation by John C. Barnes.

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