The Universal Separatist

Saint Alexius

Posted in "Alexandro Segade", baroque opera, My Barbarian, separatism by alexandrosegade on October 14, 2009


saint alexis

Saint Alexis by Jacques Callot 1636

Saint Alexius is the subject of the Baroque opera Il Sant’Alessio commissioned by Maffeo Barberini, a.k.a Pope Urban VIII, in Rome in 1631.  The opera, by Stefano Landi and Rospigliosi, tells the story of a 5th Century pilgrim, scion of a wealthy Aventine family, who leaves his wife on their wedding night, to follow god, to become a celebrated visionary in Syria, only to return to Rome, where he is is taken into his father’s home, because he looks so changed that no one, not even his grieving wife and mother, can recognize him, dressed as a pauper, so he lives under the stairs of his family home, while the whole family and servants are looking for him, and the only person who sees him is the devil, il Demonio, who tells him to reveal himslef to his family, and the angels, played by young boys, who tell Alexius that he will be a saint if he just dies under the stairs, which is what he does, only to be discovered by the family, who read a letter crumpled in the corpse’s dead hand, causing a dramatic scene over his dead body, before it is borne away and the personification of Religione leads the angels everyone in a song and the opera ends. Saint Alexius is an Eastern saint who has since been expelled from the Catholic canon.


In the play, there is a lot of high voiced singing.  In the Baroque period, the Italian stage did not allow women on stage, so Alexius, his mother, his wife, several of his friends, the nurse and the servant would all have been played by castrati.  In recent productions, Il Sant’Alessio was performed with sopranos playing men, or countertenors playing women. Either way, there is some major gayness.  The Barberini were a family of powerful cardinals and popes…

So, obviously, Saint Alexius, who was expelled from the Catholic canon, is the patron saint of this blog.

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