La Comica del Cielo


78 pages

La Comica del Cielo

ovvero La Baldassara

| Between 1644 and 1653 | Madrid, Spain
Genre (as defined by the author)
Opera scenica sacra
Talia, Urania, Baldassara, Beatrice, Alvaro, Rodrigo, Vittoria, Aladino, Ismeno, Ircano, Biscotto, Lisa, Demonio, Drappello di Soldati, Varii Spettatori, Penitenza, Coro di Angeli e di Anime beate
Number of acts

The themes of La Comica del Cielo (The Actress from the Heavens) are echoed in La Gran Comedia de la Baltasara, a piece written in 1634 (published in 1652) by Luis Vélez de Guevara, Antonio Coello and Francisco de Rojas Zorrilla which was inspired by the life of actress Francisca Baltasara de los Reyes. After her debut in either 1604 or 1605, de los Reyes achieved great success in various theater companies around Madrid—notably for roles in which she was disguised as a man—before putting an abrupt end to her career (according to legend in the middle of a performance) and retreating to a monastery.

Guilio Rospigliosi devised his "sacred scenic oeuvre" on this topic during his time spent in Madrid between 1644 and 1653. His manuscript is kept at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Vittorio Emanuele II (CNMD\0000066729). Pope under the name Clément IX, Rospigliosi presented his oeuvre at the Carnival of 1668 at the Rospigliosi palace along with puppeteer Domenico Filippo Patriarca, music by Antonio Maria Abbatini, and sets by celebrated sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, alias Le Bernin.

It is impossible to establish with certainty whether La Comica del cielo was actually performed by puppets, as some historians have written following Alessandro Ademollo (I teatri di Roma nel secolo diciasettesimo, 1888). The only known clue is a brief article published in the Avvisi di Roma during the Carnival of 1668, in which it is reported that the Princess of Rossano, visiting the nuns of Santa Maria in Campo Marzio, had the puppeteer Domenico Filippo Patriarca perform in the courtyard of the monastery, and that La Comica del cielo was performed there. There are two opposing hypotheses: either these were two separate shows, or Patriarca presented a reduced version of the show with his marionettes, reproducing the sets by Bernini, whose name is also mentioned. In any case, it seems unlikely that the premiere at the Palazzo Rospigliosi was performed with marionettes, as the editions of the Avvisi di Roma that record the performance never mention it.

In the same vein as the Véritable Saint Genest by Rotrou (1647), the play recounts the experience of an actress called on by God to retreat from the world. The first act displays a play within a play and a theater brimming with spectators. The heroic cast, composed of Rodrigo, Alvaro, and Beatrice, is flanked by a comic duo—the characters of Biscotto and Lisa. This last pair is the first to convert on the heels of the inspirational Baldassara. The play is anchored in the allegoric spirit of morality: the fate of the characters plays around a duel pitting Penitenza against the Demon in Act III. In scene six of Act II, central in regards to dramatic effect, the Holy Cross detaches from a boulder and blocks the route of Baldassara

Plot summary

An actress retreats from the world

In the prologue, Talia (Thalia) and Urania announce an inspiring story. Baldassara, a successful actress admired by Alvaro and Rodrigo, is tormented: as she performs the role of Clorinda in the company of Beatrice, Lisa, and Biscotto in a theatrical adaptation of La Gerusalemme Liberata by Torquato Tasso, she is so disturbed that she misses her cue. Baldassara understands that her torment comes from the fact that, while she plays the role of a young Christian, she has turned a deaf ear to the calls of God. Right in the middle of the performance, she leaves to exile herself in the desert, pursued by Biscotto and Lisa, who attempt to deter her from her goal. Beatrice, however, has only contempt for her rival; the other actors apologize to the public, who seem enthusiastic at the performance of who they call the "Comica del Cielo" (the Actress from the Heavens).

During her exile, Baldassara discovers the beauty in solitude, while Lisa and Biscotto see only horror. She refuses their pleas to return to Valenza. The Demon, disguised as a hunter, tempts Alvaro, who has left in search of his lover: the young man finds Baldassara, who implores him to devote his life to God. In despair, he leaves to throw himself from a cliff. Baldassara tries to stop him, but a boulder in the form of a cross intervenes. Baldassara kneels before the power of the Divine. Biscotto, in hermit's robes, decides to stay at her side despite objections from Lisa. During her slumber, the Demon sends Baldassara temptations: upon her wake, she repels him with a Christian symbol, which breaks the spell. Biscotto, however, regardless of Lisa's warnings, tastes a cake from the Demon: the bitterness in his mouth remains, but he succeeds in chasing the Demon away. Act II ends with a ballet.

Beatrice arrives in the desert after the death of Tafer, who she followed across the oceans and who was defeated by Rodrigo. In a nocturnal scene, Baldassara and Biscotto discover Beatrice and successfully dissuade her from killing herself. Rodrigo, arriving mid-reunion, wants to kill Beatrice to avenge her infidelity. Baldassara interjects and commands him to turn toward God. After these multiple conversions Penitenza (Penitence) appears to Baldassara to bring her her rewards; she confronts the Demon and triumphs over him. Since Alvaro hopes to regain his good graces with the help of Lisa, he finds Baldassara dead, in the midst of a choir of angels and happy souls.

Related works
Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Delivered)1581
La Gran Comédia de la Blatasare1634
Composition date
Between 1644 and 1653

Other titles

La Conversione di Santa Baldassarra Comica Spagnuola; La Comica celeste

First performance

Rome, Italy, 1 February 1668 -

Palazzo Rospigliosi

Publications and translations


Giulio Rospigliosi, Melodrammi sacri. Firenze: Studio Editoriale Fiorentino, 1999.

Literary tones
Edifying, Heroic, Religious, Epic
Animations techniques
"On foot and by rod" puppet, Marionette with counterweight
Not specified
Public domain


Theatrical techniques


Written by

Marie Saint Martin