The Story

Audio tracks are embedded within each activity. A pronunciation guide and "Who's Who" chart can be found here.

ACT I Outside the castle of Formoutiers in France. All the men have left the castle and village of Formoutiers in medieval France to fight in the Crusades. In order to protect their virtue, the women of the castle—the Countess Adèle and her ladiesin-waiting—have sworn to keep all men out until the soldiers return. The Countess desperately misses her absent brother and has become inconsolably sad.

One day, a religious hermit and his assistant appear near the castle. The ladies and the local peasant girls all joyfully seek the holy man’s blessings. His assistant, Raimbaud, assures the women that the hermit will help—as long as they leave wine and food for him at his “hermitage” (Track 1). The hermit himself promises to end all family discord, to bring peace, prosperity, and husbands for the young ladies (Tracks 2, 5, and 7). But what he’s really after—as he admits in an aside—is to seduce some of the country girls. He is Count Ory, in disguise. The “hermit’s assistant” is Ory’s friend, Raimbaud.

Isolier, Count Ory’s page, arrives with Ory’s tutor. The Tutor has been sent by Ory’s father to find the Count. Isolier has his own reason for coming: he hopes to meet the woman he loves, his cousin, the Countess herself (Tracks 3 and 4). The Tutor soon realizes that the hermit is Ory. But Isolier, fooled by his master’s disguise (and astonished that the holy man knows his name), asks the hermit for help in wooing the Countess. He tells the holy man his plan to sneak into the castle (Tracks 8 and 9). This gives Ory an idea: he will sneak in and seduce the Countess himself.

Seeking the hermit to cure her sadness, the Countess recognizes her cousin Isolier (Tracks 17–19). Though they’ve met before, she suddenly falls in love with him—despite her vow to remain chaste until the Crusaders come home. The hermit does advise her to love, but also to avoid Isolier, “faithful page of this terrible Count Ory” (Track 10). Ory is on the verge of conning his own way into her castle when his tutor exposes him to one and all. A letter arrives: the men of the castle will be home from the Crusades in two days. That leaves Ory only one day to get into the castle and have his way with the Countess.

ACT II Inside the castle of Formoutiers. As a thunderstorm rages (Tracks 13–16), the ladies of Formoutiers are safe inside the castle (Track 12). A group of wandering nuns knocks at the door, seeking shelter from the storm—and from the advances of the incorrigible Count Ory. The kind ladies of the castle admit the “sisters”—who are in fact Ory and his band, draped in nuns’ habits (Tracks 11 and 6). As the men grouse about the food the ladies have provided—nothing but dairy products and fruit—one of them discovers a wine cellar. By the time the Countess comes to check on the “sisters”’ welfare, they’re drunk.

In the middle of the night, there is another knock on the door of the castle. It is Isolier (Track 20), daring to breach the no-men rule because he has important news for the Countess: the men of the castle will reach home by midnight. Isolier quickly figures out who the “nuns” really are. He assures the Countess that he has a plan to keep them under control until the Crusaders arrive home.

When one of the nuns (Ory himself—ignorant that he’s been exposed) begs to join the Countess in the safety of her bedroom, Isolier puts his plan into effect: posing as the Countess in the darkness, he makes Ory address his advances to him. Comic confusion ensues (Tracks 21 and 22) but the Countess’s virtue holds fast. When the soldiers arrive at the castle gates, Ory is left with no choice but to make his escape, helped by Isolier.