Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1178) was a 12th century nun and mystic. At the age of eight years old, she entered the care of nuns where she received her education and early training, and became a nun at age 17. In addition to being regarded as a poet, prophet and visionary, she was also a prolific composer is best known for her composition Ordo Virtutum, the earliest surviving liturgical drama.
The Ordo Virtutum is a morality play set to music. It depicts the struggles of a soul torn between good and evil, in the form of 17 virtues and the devil. The virtues are sung by 17 female soloists, the Prophets and Patriarchs are represented by the chorus, and the part of the devil is not sung, but spoken, because Hildegard believed the devil had no divine harmony. With the exception of the devil’s part, the composition uses plainchant. As the story unfolds, the soul goes through a series of events where it must choose between the virtues and the temptations of the devil, who seduces her. In the end, the soul becomes repentant and returns to the virtues, and God is praised. The composition contains 82 different melodies. It is significant to the Ars Antiqua period for being the earliest known morality play, and a type of "pre-opera."