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Works data
Title: L’Huomo
Original title: L’Homme
Titelblatt des Librettos von 1754

Title page of the libretto from 1754

Shape: Festa teatrale in one act for singers, orchestra, choir and ballet
Original language: French (original), Italian (opera libretto), German (contemporary German adaptation by Philipp Cuno Christian von Bassewitz)
Music: Andrea Bernasconi Baldassare Galuppi (2 arias) Johann Adolf Hasse (3 arias) Wilhelmine von Bayreuth (2 cavatines)
Libretto: Luigi Stampiglia (Italian)
Literary template: Wilhelmine of Bayreuth (French)
World Premiere: 19. June 1754
Location of the premiere: Bayreuth, Margravial Opera House
Play time: (1 Act)

at the premiere:

  • Negiorea, reason, daughter of the good spirit – Mia Turcotti, soprano
  • Animia, female soul – Teresa Pompeati, soprano
  • Anemon, Male Soul – Stefano Leonardi, Contraalt
  • Il Buon Genio, Son of Light – Sign. [N.N.]
  • Il Cattivo Genio, Son of Darkness – Orazio Manotti, Tenor
  • L’Amor Ragionevole, reasonable love – Cesare Marini, bass player
  • L’Amor Incostane e volubile, impermanent and fleeting love – Cesare Marini, bass player
  • Volusia, Voluptuousness– Miss Kurwitz
  • Incosia, inconstancy – Miss Fiorilla [= Anna Fiorina, dancer?]

L’Huomo[1] is a Festa Teatrale in one act with music and dance based on the French opera poem created by Wilhelmine von Bayreuth L’Homme. The Italian translation for it was by the Bayreuth court librettist Luigi Stampiglia, this was set to music by the then Munich Vice-Kapellmeister Andrea Bernasconi. For the allegorical plot of good and evil powers on earth, by which the protagonists Animia and Anemone, the female and the male soul, are moved, Wilhelmine was inspired, as she writes, by the “philosphical system” (Zoroastrianism) of Zoroaster (Zarathustra, ancient Iranian founder of religion).[2] The premiere took place on 19 June 1754 in the Margravial Opera House in Bayreuth on the occasion of the visit of her brother Frederick the Great.

One-act play

  • Set design by Carlo Galli da Bibiena: oak forest, alternating with terrifying cave.

While Animia and Anemone are fast asleep in a meadow – separated from each other – the good spirit(Il Buon Genio) appears from the clouds[3] and sings of the dawning time of virtue and reason. He beholds the two sleeping “mortals”(les Mortels, the female and male souls) and hastens to proclaim his message to all men. Animias and Anemone’s names are “words of equal importance”[4] and anagrams for the female and male souls.[5] The good spirit liberates reason, his daughter Negiorea, and with her virtue and pleasures, which until then all lay bound in a “fearful cave.” After a ballet of action, Negiorea commands the dancers to take Animias and Anemones. They do so by endowing the two sleepers with mottoes called “forexes” of probity.

Among the dancers is the personified “honest love”, during whose attempt to wake Animia and Anemone, the stage darkens. With thunder and flame, IL Cattivo Genio (evil spirit) appears and drives away the followers of the good spirit. At the dance of his retinue, whom he orders to corrupt humanity, the evil spirit discovers the two sleeping, whereupon the dancers take away Anemone’s tokens of probity. They do not succeed with Animia, but they rob her of innocence and give her self-love, pride, and jealousy. Negiorea, the (invisible) Reason prevents Animia from being struck by the arrow of L’Amor Incostane (fleeting love), which strikes Anemone alone. Both mortals wake up from their sleep. They are strangers to each other and look at each other full of admiration. Their approaches end in a sung love duet(Scena Sesta).[6]

  • Stage settings: Palm forest, where the love gods walk; then mountainous impassable landscape, alternating with mountainous landscape, in which an altar is placed, around which the choir of the Spiriti Celesti gathers; at the end: landscape and crystal palace with translucent columns, in the distance the Greek port city of Piraeus.

Animia misses in Anemone the signs of true fidelity (which were taken from him), becomes suspicious and the intrigue takes its course. Volusia, lust, and Incosia, fickle love, take possession of Anemone, who forgets Animia completely. Animia is able to resist the temptations. In parallel, Negiorea’s struggle with the evil forces occurs – as the main thing, on a higher level – in which good ultimately triumphs, as Anemone realizes his wrong and is influenced to repent. Animia magnanimously forgives him.

Question about the subject

In this simple parable[7] about the lovers Animia and Anemone-the seduction of the male soul, its conversion by the intervention of reason (Negiorea), and the magnanimous forgiveness by the female soul-a certain simplicity in the demonstration of the moral advantage of the female principle is striking. It is surprising, in a courtly theatrical performance conceived especially for a state event, the visit of Frederick the Great to the Franconian residence, that Wilhelmine here explicitly does not perform a “royal homage” by the reigning lordship of Brandenburg=Culmbach[8] in the form of a corresponding act, but places a female soul in the foreground of her song-play L’Homme,(The Man). This question could be answered in the Scena Sesta, in which both souls awake from sleep: Animia, the female soul is recognized by the male as the autre moimême mais bien plus parfait (the other, much better self).[9]

Background and significance

The one-act Festa teatrale – a moralizing piece of music theatre of the Enlightenment[10] on a poetic level[11] – is modestly described by the theatre director Wilhelmine in the argument (preface) as a simple allégorie (German preface: a mere equivocation, a kind of lyric poem) with a sujet philosophique sur un Théatre d’opera.[12] The subject of Wilhelmine, who is oriented towards French culture, is interesting with regard to the French opera of the time, which was the scene of the so-called Buffonist Controversy in the 1750s: here, in 1752, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s opera Le devin du village had caused an extensive, subsequently Europe-wide French success.
Wilhelmine, like Rousseau, thematizes the hardships of a pair of divided lovers (female and male souls) and their reunion. In Rousseau, the Devin (village fortune teller) is the “saving angel” for the reconciliation; in Wilhelmine, this role is played by Negiorea, reason personified,[13] according to the system of Zoroaster led by the opera director, which is realized in the dialogue of the two souls.

A leaping point in passing is that the theatre director explicitly understands both sexes as agents under the title Der Mensch(L’Huomo); with this title she takes a stand on an old problem of identification of women, as programmed in the Romance root “homo” containing only the masculine gender. Animia’s moral edge, which is the subject of the opera, is remarkable in view of the querelle des femmes around this problem.
According to Christian doctrine, as it has been discussed since the Renaissance, only Adam could choose and have control over his life.[14] To this end, the humanist Giovanni Pico della Mirandola wrote the famous Oratio de hominis dignitate (On the Dignity of Man), printed in 1496. In contrast, in L’Huomo it is the female soul Animia alone that obeys reason, Negioreá, and thus not fleeting love.

“A light ray of truth suddenly penetrates me. Go, false one! seize thee, thou wilt but betrie[ü]gen me.”[15]

Both sexes act independently, but the female carries the moral victory. This is the source of conflict for the Querelle des femmes discussed in the salons of the time. Wilhelmine expresses it in a very simplified way:

“The author [Wilhelmine] introduces […] a Male and Female [soul], in order to encourage the attention of his various listeners [of both sexes] the better.”[16]

To this, Wilhelmine comments that a good outcome like this – the moral victory of the woman [=the female soul] – is only possible in the theatre.

” Il est fort á craindre, que ce triomphe n’existera jamais, que sur le Theatre. ”

“Cheaply one fears that this triumph can never be shown otherwise than on the stage.”[17]

<span class=”mw-headline” id=”Zum_altitalienischen_Wort_L’Huomo”>On the old Italian word L’Huomo

“L’Huomo” (old Italian spelling) as an opera title does not suggest any stage action, such as the historical figure Semiramis as a heading to Wilhelmine’s libretto of her previous opera. The definition of the word L’Huomo is “man” and at the same time “man”, but not “woman”. This led to serious discussions and rhetorical, often misogynistic quibbles within the so-called Querelle des femmes that lasted for centuries. If one considers the activities of the enlightened theatre woman Wilhelmine, who had been active on the stages of her court since 1737 with French theatre and Italian operas,[18] the question arises whether the author with her title was especially concerned with the subject of the Querelle, even if she does not state this specifically – or just because of it.

The centuries-old, lively writing of the Querelle is illustrated, for example, by the pamphlet Ob die Weiber Menschen seyn, oder nicht? (1595, German version 1618). In it the misogynous Benedictine disputant says:

“The little word homo is derived from humo, from the earth, therefore woman cannot be a man or be called a man, if she does not come from the earth, but from the rattle-ribs.”[19][20]

Wilhelmine spoke and wrote mainly the language of the educated aristocracy, French, and France was the land of salons where topics such as the Querelle were discussed.[21]

The title picture to Handel’s Rinaldo libretto 1715 shows similarities to the stylized drawing of the stage design “Palm Forest” by Carlo Bibiena 1754

French-Italian hybrid

Wilhelmine’s one-act Festa teatrale, a song-play with dances intermixed in 23 scenes, is a hybrid of Italian opera seria and French fête en musique.[22] In the case of the culturally French-oriented Margravine, one might think that she had in mind Jean Jacques Rousseau’s one-act opera(Interméde) Le devin du village, which had been performed with great success in Paris since 1752, for this musical theatre was also “only” about the reconciliation of a divided (rural) couple of lovers who are reconciled by the intervention of the village fortune-teller and magician. In L’Huomo, the relationship drama takes place on a higher level, with the role of the village magician falling to a buon genio (good spirit) in the form of his daughter, Reason. Four ballets and seven choruses are elements of the French tragédie lyrique integrated into the plot; the dance music and choreography, early examples of plot ballets, are now lost. Two cavatines of the good spirit composed by Wilhelmine are placed in a central position,[23] To these are added a total of sixteen da capo arias, usually placed as the conclusion of a scene, as in Italian opera seria. Two ballet masters are indicated in the libretto. The concluding ballet bears the programmatic heading Rinaldo and Armide, based on the ancient mythological material that George Frideric Handel, for example, set to music in his opera of the same name, Rinaldo. The title page of the libretto of his Hamburg performance, with its depiction of a round-arched architecture, bears a resemblance to the stylized graphic design of the “palm forest” in Carlo Galli da Bibiena’s stage design for L’Huomo.

The teachings of Zoroaster

Raphael, The School of Athens, c. 1510 (detail). Zarathustra (?)

Zarathustra, ancient Iranian founder of religion, probably from Bactria (2nd or 1st millennium BC) and his teachings preoccupied Europeans, especially in the Age of Enlightenment. In France, Voltaire, with whom Wilhelmine was a friend, was the most important writer on the subject.
“The Zoroastrian dualism of good and evil had been known in Europe since the accounts of the ancient Greeks”.[24]
In her textbook to L’Huomo, Wilhelmine writes only the following in reference to Zoroaster, which shows that she counts him among the philosophers:

” L’Idèe du bon et du mauvais Genie, qu’il introduit sur la scène, est tirée du sistème de Zoroastre, fameux Philosophe, à ce qu’òn croit, de la Bactriane. “[25]

In Wilhelmine’s library, according to the catalogue of the University of Erlangen, is a libretto of the opera Zoroastre, performed by Jean Philippe Rameau in 1749, and a French book Zoroastre. The opera libretto attributed to Louis de Cahusac (title page anonymous), and what flowed from it into Wilhelmine’s libretto L’Homme, has been studied by: Thomas Betzwieser Cahusac und die Folgen – Überlegungen zum Aufführungsscharakter von ‘L’Huomo’ in Bayreuth 1754.[26]


The idea of the subject of the opera L’Huomo, in which souls are the main characters, is encountered 110 years earlier in Das Geistliche Waldgedicht oder Freudenspiel, genant Seelewig by the Nuremberg Baroque composer Sigmund Theophil Staden, Nuremberg 1644; text by Georg Philipp Harsdörffer.[27] A possible reference to this work has not yet been addressed. In contrast to L’Huomo, Seelewig is about the temptation of the female soul alone.

L’Huomo is, with L’Argenore, one of the only two operas to survive (in its entirety) from Wilhelmine’s 20 years as opera director at Bayreuth, 1737-1758.[28]

An indication of increased and more costly equipment for the Bayreuth opera care in the year of the premiere in 1754 is given by the Bayreuth court calendar of 1755 (conceived the year before) with the Etat de l’opera recorded for the first time, as whose chief director Philipp Christian Cuno von Bassewitz is named, who also wrote the German adaptation.[29]
From the early 1750s, after the final work on the Margravial Opera House had been completed, the opera director Wilhelmine showed increased activity with libretti she had written herself. In 1751 she was admitted to the Roman Accademia dell’Arcadia, a literary academy to which the librettist Metastasio also belonged.[30] On the occasion of her brother Frederick II’s visit to Bayreuth, she had the libretto to L’Huomo printed in three languages (Italian/French and Italian/German).[31] Wilhelmine entrusted the setting to the Munich Vicekapellmeister Andrea Bernasconi, who had taken up his post at the court of the Bavarian Elector in 1753.

On 22 June 1754, the Bayreuth newspaper reported on the first performance of Man […] which testifies to the excellent qualities of mind of its author [Wilhelmine]. She praised the great accuracy and splendor of the performance. His Majesty [Frederick the Great] seemed quite amused by the poem, the music, the dances and the machines.[32] The newspaper did not comment on the content.
The same text as in the Bayreuth Zeitung, but in French, appeared ten days later, on July 2, 1754, in the Gazette de Cologne.[33]

On 27 June 1754, Count Lehndorff, chamberlain to the Queen, wife of Frederick the Great Elisabeth Christine, wrote in his diary nothing of the opera, but of the (inevitable) royal homage that took place “at one of the festivals” in Bayreuth, obviously independent of the performance of the opera:

“The king returns from his Baireuth journey very much gratified. At one of the feasts they deified his image by causing a crown to descend from heaven upon his image with the inscription, ‘For the Most Worthy.'”[34]

In 1958 Gilbert Gravina produced a German version of L’Huomo for the first revival in Wilhelmine’s 200th year of death. This took place at the same venue as the premiere in 1754, with the arrangement and extensive adaptation by the then Bavarian State Kapellmeister Robert Heger. The title chosen was Der Triumph des Lichts.[35]
Fifty years later (2009), the opera was staged in Gotha and Bayreuth on the occasion of the double anniversary in 2008/2009 of Wilhelmine’s 250th death and 300th birthday.


  • Gisela Bock: Querelle des femmes. A European Controversy about the Sexes. In: Women in European History. From the Middle Ages to the Present. C. H. Beck, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-406-46167-0, pp. 13-52
  • Sabine Henze-Döhring:The musical composition of the opera L’Huomo.(PDF; 2.8 MB) Lecture at the symposium on the occasion of the revival of L’Huomo: Das Musikalische Theater der Markgräfin Wilhelmine, 2 October 2009, Kunstmuseum Bayreuth. (No longer available online.) In: 1 December 2009, archived on.OriginalNovember7,2016; accessed lecture text).
  • L’Homme, L’Huomo, Der Mensch. Libretti in French, Italian, German. University libraries Bayreuth, Erlangen (both only Italian/French) and Rostock (only Italian/German; digital copy, University library Rostock).
  • H. Lommel: The Iranian Religion. In: The Religions of the Earth. Their Nature and History. Founded by Carl Clemen. 2. Edition. Munich 1949 (1st edition 1927), OCLC 1069912929, pp. 133-150.
  • Peter Niedermüller, Reinhard Wiesend (eds.): Musik und Theater am Hofe der Bayreuther Markgräfin Wilhelmine. Symposium on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the Margravial Opera House on July 2, 1998 (= Musikwissenschaftliches Institut der Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität Mainz [ed.]: Schriften zur Musikwissenschaft. Vol. 7). Are Edition, Mainz 2002, ISBN 3-924522-08-1.
  • Gustav Berthold Volz (ed.): Friedrich der Große und Wilhelmine von Bayreuth. Correspondence. Volume II. Published by K. F. Koeler, Leipzig 1926.
  • Reinhard Wiesend: Margravine Wilhelmine and the Opera. In: Rococo Paradise. Galli Bibiena and the Court of the Muses of Wilhelmine of Bayreuth. Exhibition catalogue. Edited by Peter O. Krückmann. Prestel, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-7913-1964-7.

Web links

See also

  • For the title L’Huomo, see L’homme. European Journal for Feminist Historical Studies. Göttingen 1990 ff., ISSN 1016-362X


  2. See her Argomento (preface).
  3. Designation in the German libretto: “guter” or “böser Schutzengel” (later in the text only “guter und böser Engel”).
  4. According to a contemporary German translation by the then director of the court opera Philipp Christian Cuno von Bassewitz. Italian-German libretto, Rostock University Library.
  5. See content in the German libretto.
  6. German libretto, pp. 15 and 16.
  7. Thus the translation in the German preface.
  8. Wording of the German libretto title.
  9. Anemon on Animia: “Cet autre moimême mais bien plus parfait que moi”.
  10. See in addition Theatre of the Enlightenment.(No longer available online.) In: Form INform, archived from the original on 12August 2013; retrieved21 August 2019.
  11. The dialogues show this in their coherent, linguistic-rhetorical quality.
  12. See the trilingual preface.
  13. Guter und böser Schutzengel is the name given by the Bayreuth court opera director Philipp Cuno Christian von Bassewitz in his German translation of the libretto.
  14. On the definition male/female, especially in Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, see Gisela Bock: Frauen in der Europäischen Geschichte. S. 14.
  15. Animia zur flüchtigen Liebe, 15th scene, German libretto, p. 43.
  16. See Innhalt (= German preface).
  17. L’Huomo, Preface.
  18. Margravine Wilhelmine’s operatic efforts deserve the greatest historical interest“. Reinhard Wiesend: Margravine Wilhelmine and the Opera. In: Galli Bibiena und der Musenhof der Wilhelmine von Bayreuth. Prestel, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-7913-1963-9, p. 94.
  19. Ob die Weiber Menschen seyn, oder nicht? German version from 1618 of the Latin Disputatio from 1595. In: Elisabeth Gössmann (ed.): Ob die Weiber Menschen seyn, oder nicht? (= Archive for research on women in the history of philosophy and theology. Vol. 4). 2.(= Archive for Philosophical and Theological Research on Women), revised and enlarged edition, iudicium, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-89129-004-7, pp. 101-124; commentary by Jörg Jungmayr, pp. 52-62.
  20. For example, Gisela Bock mentions the salonière Madame d’Epinay, who was still musing in this direction in 1776 about the word l’homme, which as such meant the human being per se or – with the article un – the man, whereas the woman – “une femme” – was expressed with a different root. From which she deduced that woman is not defined as man, but as another gender. Bock p. 20.
  21. About the composer Andrea Bernasconi s. Daniela Sadgorski: Andrea Bernasconi und die Oper am Münchner Kurfürstenhof 1753-1772. Herbert Uz Verlag, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-8316-4000-3, especially pp. 58 and 61.
  22. Modern scores of the cavatines. Furore Verlag, Kassel.
  23. H. Lommel in: Carl Clemen: The Religions of the Earth. 1949, S. 145.
  24. See argument in the libretto (French original text).
  25. Thomas Betzwieser (ed.): Opernkonzeptionen zwischen Berlin und Bayreuth. The musical theatre of Margravine Wilhelmine. Papers presented at the symposium on the occasion of the performance of ‘L’Huomo’ at the Margravial Opera House in Bayreuth on 2 October 2009 (= Thurnauer Schriften zum Musiktheater. Ban 31). Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg, 2016, ISBN 978-3-8260-5664-2, pp. 195-221.
  26. Sigmund Theophil Staden was the Kulmbach-born son of Johann Staden, who had been the court organist of the Princes of Kulmbach and Bavaria for many years.
  27. The (only surviving) contemporary performance material for L’Huomo, a copy by a Bayreuth court copyist, belongs to the library of Wilhelmine’s sister Philippine Charlotte of Prussia in the Herzog August Library. The fact that Wilhelmine’s harpsichord concerto is also found there in the manuscript of the same scribe indicates a special connection to the Bayreuth court.
  28. Fürstlich Bayreuthischer Hofkalender 1755, Bayreuth University Library.
  29. Irene Hegen: New documents and reflections on the musical history of Wilhelmine’s time. 5. Wilhelmine’s Arcadian Diploma. In: Peter Niedermüller, Reinhard Wiesend (eds.) 2002, pp. 54-57.
  30. Wilhelmine von Bayreuth: L’Huomo/ L’Homme. Italian/French facsimile. In: Peter Niedermüller, Reinhard Wiesend (eds.), 2002, pp. 27-205. Italian/German libretto: Rostock University Library: Mitgeteilt von Sabine Henze-Döhring. In: This: Themusical composition of the opera L’Huomo.(PDF; 2.8 MB) Lecture at the symposium on the occasion of the revival of L’Huomo: Das Musikalische Theater der Markgräfin Wilhelmine, 2 October 2009, Kunstmuseum Bayreuth. (No longer available online.) In: 1 December 2009, p. 1, archivedfrom the original on 7 November 2016; retrieved 21August 2019 (footnoted lecture text).
  31. Bayreuth Newspaper. 22. June 1754, Bayreuth University Library.
  32. Sabine Henze-Döhring: Frederick the Great. Musician and Monarch. Beck, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-406-63055-2, p. 228, note 17.
  33. The diaries of Count Lehndorff. The secret records of the chamberlain of Queen Elisabeth Christine. New edition of the 1907 edition in the translation by the then editor Karl-Eduard Schmidt-Lötzen, edited by Gisela Langfeld, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-86368-050-3.
  34. Performance material in the archive of the Bavarian State Opera Munich.

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