Le Cid Synopsis

The Story of Jules Massenet's Opera, Le Cid

Massenet - Le Cid - 1885 - act 4, scene 10 - Rodrigue triomphant à l'Alhambra de Grenade
Massenet - Le Cid - 1885 - act 4, scene 10 - Rodrigue triomphant à l'Alhambra de Grenade. Adrien Marie/Wikimedia Commons

Jules Massenet's Le Cid premiered on November 30, 1885, at the Paris Opera in Paris, France. The opera consists of four acts and takes place in the historical capital of Spain, Burgos, during the 11th century. 

The Story of Le Cid

Returning home from victory against the Moors, Rodrigue is honored with knighthood from King Ferdinand. The ceremony takes place at the home of Count Gormas, whose daughter, Chimene, has fallen in love with Rodrigue.

The royal family gives their approval to Chimene, allowing her the ability to marry him. This upsets the King's daughter because she, too, loves Rodrigue. Her father is quick to scold her, telling her that she cannot be with Rodrigue since he is not of royal blood.

The King is so impressed with Rodrigue's victory, that he names Rodrigue's father, Don Diego, the new Count. Count Gormas becomes furious and immediately calls for a duel. Since Don Diego is a very old man and cannot fight, Rodrigue, when asked, takes his father's place. However, Rodrigue was not aware of whom he'd be fighting. When he finds out that it is Chimene's father, he is shocked. As the duel proceeds, it ends when Rodrigue unintentionally kills Count Gormas. Chimene is distraught and vows to avenge her father.

Preparations are being made at the start of the day for a merry festival in the large square of the King's palace.

Chimene makes her way through the happy crowd, seeking an audience with the King to plead for revenge against Rodrigue. Knowing that Moor warriors are advancing into Spanish territory, he tells Chimene to delay her wants. Ridrigue is to lead the Spanish army in a fast approaching battle. He tells her to wait at least until the battle is fought, then she may exact her revenge.

Later, after Rodrigue has gathered his things for the battle, he meets with Chimene. Despite her strong desire to avenge her father, she still loves Rodrigue - so much so, that she restrains herself from hurting him. Not long after, Rodrigue departs for war.

On the battlefield, Rodrigue and his army are facing near defeat. When he falls to the ground wary and exhausted, he prays to God and accepts his fate. Suddenly, a vision of Saint James appears before him promising him a victorious battle. Rodrigue's body is renewed and he jumps back into battle. And just as quick as Saint James appeared and disappeared, Spanish warriors gain the upper hand and the battle is won.

Before the Spanish warriors return homes, news reports of their battle reach the ears of the villagers. However, the reports are already dated since the rumor is that the leader was killed and the battle was lost. Chimene, though sad, finally confesses that her revenge has been had. After contemplating the terrible news, she breaks down with a broken heart, declaring her love for Rodrigue. When the second report of the battle makes its way around town, this time with the favorable outcome, Rodrigue arrives home to finds that Chimene is inconsolable.

When the King approaches her, he agrees to carry out her wish of revenge, but she must be the one to deliver Rodrigue's death sentence. In that moment, love takes a firm grasp on her heart and she is resolved once more to love him completely. When she finds Rodrigue, he pulls out his dagger and threatens to kill himself if she will not be his wife. Chimene is moved with compassion and reveals that she has loved him this whole time.

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