By Barnaby Miln - Posted on 17 August 2010

Venue: The Royal College of Surgeons
Company: Linn Maxwell
Running time: 60mins
Production: Portrayal of the 12th century German abbess
Performers: Linn Maxwell (mezzo soprano)

Some of the text for the opening concert of the International Festival, El Nio, was taken from the writings of Hildegard of Bingen (1098 - 1179). Linn Maxwell, a highly accomplished mezzo soprano from Indiana in the United States, performed the life of the woman who challenged the male-dominated world of nine hundred years ago. And she did so with great prowess and in such a way that the key facts of Hildegard of Bingen's life and times were gently brought to life and in put into the context of the period.

Hildegard of Bingen entered a monastery as a girl. When the nun who had directed her for many years died, she was chosen as leader. Before long she was telling the Abbot that the nuns needed their own place, and off they went. Not frightened to tell successive Popes where they were going wrong, she wrote for general readership a great deal about hope, healing and the Living Light.

She also composed many songs and Linn Maxwell sung seven of them during her act. They were sung in Latin and we were given a sheet with the translation.

The intriguing stage set was that of a nun's monastery cell and from time to time Linn Maxwell, dressed as the Abbess, would retrieve an object or document to show us. It was all great fun and musical. But above all an education about a woman who railed against the authority of the time and who is still very much revered today.

Show times Till 28 August (not 22), 5 pm