|Banca Dati 'Giulio Rospigliosi'||indice|
Scene: Winter; a road that leads between two opposing castles.
The Bird of Dawn brings Aurora to greet the spectators and introduce the story; as the sun rises, her attendants gradually reveal themselves in their true colours.
Innocenza greets the morning, waking Colpa. Challenges are issued, battle lines are drawn. 'Lice se piace': it is permitted if it pleases; 'Piace se lice': it pleases if it is permitted.
Vita and her companion Intendimento arrive at the pass between the two castles. He tries to warn her of possible dangers on the road, she has heard it all before.
The sentinels sing. Curious, she asks them questions, and strange echoes from within the castles answer her in cryptic fashion.
The echoes reveal themselves to be Innocenza and Colpa, who vie for Vita's attention. Listening too eagerly to Colpa, she discovers a mark on her dress that can only be washed away by tears of repentance - which she does not feel inclined to shed at this moment: 'Am I not free to act as I wish?' she asks, and Innocenza must agree.
Alone, Innocenza regrets Vita's easy dismissal of good advice; meanwhile, Colpa and her sidekick Piacere plan the assault on Intendimento.
Piacere seduces Intendimento, with impeccable logic: Intendimento declares 'I see the evil that I do, and I choose it freely'.
The act ends with a martial dance, Virtues against Vices: who will win?
Piacere now tempts Vita: she resists for a long time, but without Intendimento's support she finds the argument difficult to sustain.
Colpa and her Vices exult, quoting Caesar - we came, we saw, we conquered.
Intendimento, however, prompted by heavenly voices, is having second thoughts, but his penitence is as extreme as his fall, and as unbalanced.
The voices speak to Vita too, but until she freely chooses to reject evil and follow good, Innocenza is powerless to help her. They are not out of Guilt's net yet, and Intendimento is near despair.
Innocenza tries to persuade Vita to stop yearning after Pleasure, and cites famous examples of women who have given up worldly delights for the joys of the spirit: St Brigitta of Sweden, who came to Rome centuries ago, and her present successor who 'brings from the icy north her heart of fire' - Christina.
Piacere and Colpa realise that a further effort is required to secure the downfall of Vita and Intendimento: they hatch a new plot, designed to confound Vita utterly, and rob her finally of all capacity to distinguish between illusion and reality, truth and falsehood.
The trusting, easy relationship between Vita and Intendimento has broken down under so much stress: Intendimento cannot work out what is happening; 'Am I not free to follow my own desires?' and Vita is totally confused at the collapse of one who was so strong and sure. Intendimento throws all to the winds, deciding to drown his sorrows in pleasures - Vita is left in despair, as the dark night falls.
In the middle of night and winter, a strange garden blooms: Piacere brings Colpa and the mad Intendimento to his lair. Despairing, Intendimento drinks from Piacere's fountain, sinks into exhausted sleep, and is callously left alone, to be found by Vita, who thinks him dead.
Her cries for help are heard by Innocenza, who may only intervene when expressly asked. She breaks the enchantment, waking Intendimento, and dispelling its lingering effects by presenting him with a ring depicting death: 'Death is the mirror of life; if you remember always that you must die then you will be able to withstand all the assaults of evil.'
But Piacere and Colpa have one last weapon; they appear in the identical forms of Intendimento and Innocenza. Vita, completely lost, not knowing what is illusion and what reality, calls at last to heaven to reveal the truth, Innocenza responds with the words from the liturgy of the Easter Vigil at the moment marking the Resurrection: Christ lives, Christ reigns, Christ will conquer.
A vision of Salvation confounds the forces of evil, and the winter desolation is transformed by the true Spring.
Performance ends at approximately 10.15 pm.