Worldliness from Die Schuldigkeit des Ersten Gebots

20 Oct

When you look at the title of this post without a background in German, the title of the play just looks like a jumble of letters. I assure you, however, that it means something in English, the equal jumble of letters, “The Obligation to the First and Foremost Commandment”. This opera, Mozart’s first, is an allegorical play about Christianity where Worldliness (similar to a disguised Satan) comes and tries to lure a sleeping Christian away to earthly pleasures.

My photo illustrates this allegory. The Knight has cast his armor aside, and fallen asleep, while Satan disguised as a beautiful woman comes to seduce him.

Die Schuldigkeit des Ersten Gebots, Act 1 by Tyson Vick

Die Schuldigkeit des Ersten Gebots, Act 1 by Tyson Vick

These costumes were some of my earliest costuming work. At this point I was learning how to sew using patterns, and this was the first pattern I needed to alter. This gown comes from Simplicity 3782.

Simplicity 3782

Simplicity 3782

I needed the lower cut bodice to close in the front, and so began my long career of pattern altering.

Elizabeth models this gown for Etsy.

Elizabeth models this gown for Etsy.

This gown also caused a bit of a problem, when after it was complete, I realized it could never — ever — be laundered. It was made out of a Brocade with a Rayon blend and Satin. The rayon would shrink by entire inches when wet, the satin would stain and the boning that I used could not withstand the dry-cleaning. I am now much more careful. I pre-shrink everything — who cares what it is? All of my wool is very tiny now, lol. Or I make sure it can be dry cleaned.

The gown has a full skirt.

The gown has a full skirt.

However, the color choice is still very pretty. I sold this gown on Etsy when I first set up shop! And yes, I told her about the laundering trouble!

The bodice was altered to close in the front.

The bodice was altered to close in the front.

You will also see that I altered the pattern to have more sleeve slashes. I wish now I would have put these on the top of the arm, because you cannot see this detail in the final image very well.

The sleeves pour out of cuts in the back.

The sleeves pour out of cuts in the back.

I also made a corset for this gown!

Elizabeth laughs in the matching corset.

Elizabeth laughs in the matching corset.

The corset was pre-shrunk, thank goodness, and so it won’t warp when you spill water all over yourself. It was made out of scraps which were cut and sewn back together, a bit like a quilt!

The corset is made of strips of yellow and brocade fabric.

The corset is made of strips of yellow and brocade fabric.

This was the first thing I ever listed on Etsy, and it still lingers there, unsold. 😦 It was even down to $30 once, when I was trying new things and seeing if low prices would move the items. It did not, and so I put it back up, but not, perhaps so high as it should be…. go buy it.

The corset is in the medieval style.

The corset is in the medieval style. and comes from Simplicty Pattern 2621


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3 Responses to “Worldliness from Die Schuldigkeit des Ersten Gebots”

  1. Roo Bookaroo October 24, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

    It is clear that you have never listened to the opera, nor even ever read the libretto.
    You don’t seem to know German, but at least I guess you can read it in an English translation. Perhaps you don’t have much time to read anyway.
    Ian Page, who recorded his own conducting of the opera was kind enough to give us a full English translation on the same page as the German text.

    If you ever read it carefully (something I doubt very much), you will discover that
    1) Although the character is called “Christian”, more exactly in German “Der Christ”, he is not yet a real Christian. In fact he knows nothing of Christianity yet. If he were a real christian, there would be no play. The dynamics of the play is for Christgeist to fight in order to win his soul. This does NOT happen in this opera. This was only the first part of a trilogy, with introduction of the characters and positioning of the contestants for the soul of Christian. The second part (lost) was the full-blown fight between both sides, and the third part (also lost) the final triumph of Christgeist who converts Christian to Christianity and has him adopt the first Commandment (love God with all they heart, etc.).
    In Mozart’s opera, the prospect is called “Christian”, although he is not yet a religious christian in the story, only a target. He is described as “tepid”, or “hesitant”, but in fact he is not even a fence-sitter, because he is not concerned in the least (yet) about “salvation”, of which he has no inkling.
    He is a naive, simple, happy-go-lucky soul, subjected to two opposing influences. However, in this Part I of the trilogy, Christian is not really “torn” between the two sides. He is rather uninvolved at the beginning, and perplexed later on when Christgeist begins to upset his innocence with tormenting rhetoric, and Worldly Spirit jumps into the act to save Christian’s sanity.

    2) Worldliness is NOT a devil from Hell. And certainly not “Satan” in disguise. This is NOWHERE mentioned in the libretto. You got that interpretation from the M-22 DVD staged by John Dew.
    I have reviewed this point extensively in my own Amazon review of the M-22 DVD
    John Dew GOT IT WRONG! (I think he is not fooled, but dramatizing for the sake of pleasing the public at the 2006 Salzburg Festival, who have come for an evening’s entertainment, and have no idea of what parts II and III of the trilogy were about. Nobody in that audience was concerned with authenticity, and John Dew played along).


    But even in a comical style, there’s no justification for the gross distortions the director John Dew indulges in to win the applause. To me, the unbearable disappointment and constant turn-off of his production is the misrepresentation of the two contenders: Weltgeist and Christgeist.

    While Worldly Spirit is going through her list of seductive offers in her sensational No. 4 Aria “Hat der Schöpfer dieses Leben”:
    “The Creator has given us THIS LIFE AND FREE RUN OF THE WORLD, so REJOICE, LAUGH, HAVE FUN, and let dreams be dreams. ENJOY the world, and pursue PLEASURE,”
    it is highly ironical to see her onstage strutting around like a monster of nightmare, in her green/orange outfit, surrounded by two horrible acolytes, with their orange makeups and red tails — straight out of some horror movie for children.


    The gross distortion lies in presenting Weltgeist as a figure of Hell, whereas the libretto projects her as personifying the JOYS AND PLEASURES OF LIFE. Hell is only what comes at the end of life, when the reckoning in the Last Judgment is weighed and assessed, as was explained in Justice’s No. 3 aria “Erwache, fauler Knecht”:
    “Wake up, lazy scoundrel, for your severe judgment. There Hell and Death beckon, you must give an exact reckoning of your life to the Lord your God!”

    It is an aberrant travesty to turn Worldly Spirit into a devil from Hell.
    The producer John Dew must have thought that a cartoonish representation would be more directly understandable to an ordinary audience who has only a simplified, still medieval, stainless-glass type, notion of what Christianity is about.

    Of course, the aim is to gain audience acceptance, and the farcical approach could be, when the work is still unknown and grossly undervalued, the most efficient one. Its major beneficial consequence might be of course convincing the world’s audiences and opera house managers that Mozart’s first opera can be staged as a viable visual entertainment for the public-at-large.
    There’s a secondary benefit as well, in that many opera-goers may become interested in Mozart’s music and become tempted to buy the CD version of Philips/Neville Marriner, or of Signum/Ian Page, which would allow them to discover the vibrancy and haunting beauty of Mozart’s score.

    Our serious grievance remains the staging of Weltgeist as a horrifying devil from Hell, a gross misinterpretation of the libretto. It’s a pure invention of John Dew that, in fact, destroys the tension inherent to the play.
    It is unthinkable that prospect Christian could ever become attracted to Worldly Spirit and listen to her seductive spiel, if she appeared to him as a monster devil. Simple-minded as he is, his first instinct would be to run away. Weltgeist’s orange make-up is grotesque; her frightening headdress of multiple flames and horns, her inflated green costume, her orange painted face and stockings, and a long orange tail trailing behind, are simply ludicrous. As Pangloss sings in Bernstein’s “Candide”, ” only one word, a simple word,” can describe the whole concept: “AB-SURD.”
    And, in the theory that more is better, we get not just one she-devil, but five more of them, cavorting onstage in their extravagantly caricatural red-orange costumes, making terrifying nightmarish faces, and all equipped with a dangling tail. John Dew went overboard, putting Hell on stage. Hey, while he was at it,why not. The key is to get the ignorant public’s applause. THERE IS NO MENTION AT ALL IN THE LIBRETTO OF ANY DEVIL CAVORTING IN THE PLAY.
    And Mozart’s music is faithful to the libretto. Mozart is NOT depicting a devil or Hell in his music. He was only 11 years old, and it would have been unkind of the librettist to impose this script to the young boy.
    John Dew went on a rampage of free-style staging creativity, but it is a monstrosity.

    Although I have listened more than 50 times to the CD version (Philips/Hager with the marvelous Inge Nielsen as Worldliness, with an aetherial voice that could NEVER be misinterpreted as a demon), I also have the M-22 DVD staged by John Dew, and I must confess that I find it hard to watch with the absurdity of the demon business on stage, which is totally aberrant and destroys the charm of this 11-year old’s music.

    In the John Dew’s M-22 DVD, it is Christiane Karg that acts the part of Worldliness and she must be lauded for her brilliance and aplomb in delivering her magnificent No. 4 and No. 6 arias while burdened by the grotesque accouterments of her character. She is breathtakingly versatile and convincing, and, obviously, the star of the lot.
    How much more exciting this production would have been if John Dew had let her act her natural, seductive part as he did in “Apollo et Hyacinthus”, also contained in the same M-22 DVD box.

    I hope you’ll use your brain and let yourself get more influenced by the spirit of Don Giovanni to represent Worldliness.

    Oct. 24, 2014

    • tysonvick October 24, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

      I’m afraid I do not know of any productions of this opera, and my photos are not influenced by anything other than the libretto itself. I can quite agree that a demonic figure, depictted with horns or demon friends, does not fit in this story at all, because that would never convince anyone to follow them to a forest-party with guests of both genders. However, I think you will see that my image has nothing “satanic” in its composition, and I hope reflects the play most aptly, as Worldliness is depicted as a beautiful woman.

      • Roo Bookaroo October 25, 2014 at 1:57 am #

        I didn’t object to your pictures, which are always beautiful. Otherwise I wouldn’t even be following your site. I want to follow only proven experienced experts on Mozart, not amateurs dabbling with the image of Mozart.
        I objected to the language in your presentation:
        “This opera, Mozart’s first, is an allegorical play about Christianity where Worldliness (similar to a disguised Satan) comes and tries to lure a sleeping Christian away to earthly pleasures.

        My photo illustrates this allegory. The Knight has cast his armor aside, and fallen asleep, while Satan disguised as a beautiful woman comes to seduce him.”

        You mention “Satan” TWICE, and “beautiful woman” only ONCE.
        You may cut it whichever way it pleases your understanding, but there’s no way that the librettist in his text or Mozart in his music represents Worldliness as a demon, even less so as “Satan disguised”. Which is absurd. Satan is not in the play, in any form. Only in John Dew’s imagination and yours.
        I will trust the libretto’s text and Mozart’s music any day over your glib description.
        Worldliness is a temptress, not a demon. But she is a temptress for the JOYS OF LIVING, not for crime, gluttonry, and debauchery. That is what bothers Christgeist, because Christianity is AGAINST THE JOYS OF LIVING embodied by Worldliness. It is Christianity, Mercy and Justice who depict the horrors of hell after death at the start of the opera.
        in this opera at least, WORLDLINESS EMBODIES THE JOYS OF NATURAL LIVING. And Christgeist can’t take it, because his offers and promises ARE NOT TEMPTING to Christian.

        Now, remember that this was only Part I of the adventures of Christian. There was Part II (by Michael Haydn, the brother of Joseph), and a Part III, both lost. What happens to Christian in those two parts, we don’t know. Many new things must happen, so that in Part III Christgeist can triumph and claim Christian as a true new convert to Christianity, that is that he truthfully accepts the first commandment.

        But in Part I, the opera by Mozart, nothing is happening prejudging the success of Christgeist. In fact, at the end of this opera, Christgeist is the LOSER, and Worldliness the WINNER.
        John Dew, the stage director of the 2006 Salzburg Festival performance had to invent a new ending because Part I is all he can show to the audience. So he telescopes the presumed ending of Part III into his invented staging to make Christgeist the final winner of this festival evening.


        The ending of this production is also a gross distortion. In the libretto, the situation is not yet settled in favor of Christgeist at all, as this would destroy the suspense of the opera, which is to last over 2 more Parts.

        First, John Dew has Christian running off with Weltgeist (as in the libretto).
        But then John Dew invents some stage action in which Christgeist is able to retrieve Christian from her grip by easily packing her off (catching her by her tail!). Then Dew ends with Christian kneeling and praying with Christgeist, as if all ends best in the best of worlds.

        But all this contrived ending is NOT IN THE LIBRETTO.
        In the last recitative, after No. 7 aria, Christian departs, following Worldly Spirit, singing to Christgeist:
        “Forgive me, my state of well-being demands me to HURRY OFF. If this remedy passes its probation, then I’ll repay you WHEN I NEXT SEE YOU.” (Which of course will not happen until Part II comes along).

        And Worldly Spirit, in aparte, adds her own parting words of total distrust:
        “(Thus I end their discussion, for this doctor seems suspicious to me.)”
        The two, Christian and Worldly Spirit, are gone for good, and are not to be seen again onstage.

        Christgeist is dejected by his abject FAILURE, and complains:
        “Alas! [People] don’t hear my doctrine of true virtue, and instead follow my adversary, who cuts short all that is good.”
        Mercy and Justice try to console Christgeist, who becomes realistic. How can he expect a follower of Worldly Spirit to “immediately be ablaze with God’s love?” He needs to have patience.

        Then comes the final No. 8 Terzetto (trio). What Christgeist sings is a cry for help. He implores Mercy and Justice to stand by him in his difficult mission of retrieving souls from perdition.
        “May the radiance of your grace never desert me, so that I CAN GAIN NEW COURAGE. I shall at all times strive and consider how to win dear souls for my Creator; this shall be my task.”
        Christgeist still needs a lot of courage and divine support (supplied by Mercy and Justice) to carry on in Parts II and III with his work, WHICH IS NOT YET DONE.

        In fact, in this libretto, at the end of Part I, Christian is not even an undecided, or unconvinced prospect. Worldly Spirit has won the initial contest, and Christian is firmly following her.
        This is NECESSARY TO KEEP THE SUSPENSE ALIVE FOR THE SEQUEL, and to smoothly lead into Part II, where the conflict between Christgeist and Weltgeist must intensify. Only in Part III will Christgeist score success in the challenge of gaining Christian’s soul.

        However, John Dew could not bear leaving the end so open, and he decided to telescope the ending of Part III right here at the conclusion of Part I. This improvised ending by John Dew is, of course, not reflected in Mozart’s music, which follows the libretto and simply expresses the dejection and hope of Christgeist, and the vow of support from Mercy and Justice.

        Oct. 25, 2014

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