Carmina Burana is a scenic cantata composed by Carl Orff in 1935 and 1936. It is based on 24 of the poems found in the medieval collection Carmina Burana. Its full Latin title is Carmina Burana: Cantiones profanæ cantoribus et choris cantandæ comitantibus instrumentis atque imaginibus magicis (“Songs of Beuern: Secular songs for singers and choruses to be sung together with instruments and magic images.”) Carmina Burana is part of Trionfi, the musical triptych that also includes the cantata Catulli Carmina and Trionfo di Afrodite. The best-known movement is “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi” (“O Fortuna”) that opens and closes the piece.

Orff first encountered the text in John Addington Symonds's 1884 publication Wine, Women and Song, which included English translations of 46 poems from the collection. Michel Hofmann, a young law student and Latin and Greek enthusiast, assisted Orff in the selection and organization of 24 of these poems into a libretto, mostly in Latin verse, with a small amount of Middle High German and Old Provençal. The selection covers a wide range of topics, as familiar in the 13th century as they are in the 21st century: the fickleness of fortune and wealth, the ephemeral nature of life, the joy of the return of Spring, and the pleasures and perils of drinking, gluttony, gambling and lust.

Latin and English Text:

More info about Carmina Burana:


  • Arleen Augér: Soprano.
  • Jonathan Summers: Tenor
  • John Van Kesteren: Baritone
  • Philharmonia Chorus (Norbert Balatsch Choir Master)
  • Southend Boys' Choir (Michael Crabb Choir Master)
  • Philharmonia Orchestra
  • Riccardo Muti: Conductor