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Cyrano de Bergerac

ACT I. At a performance at the Hotel de Bourgogne, Christian, a new cadet in the Guards, admires the beautiful Roxane but dares not approach her. Cyrano, pride of the Guardsmen, bursts in to stop the performance, chasing the lead actor, whom he despises, from the stage. The Vicomte de Valvert, scandalized at this insult to the Duc de Candale's protégé, warns Cyrano that his bravado will make him powerful enemies, but Cyrano, scorning the tyranny of patronage, challenges the Vicomte, composing a ballad about their duel as they fight. The onlookers cheer Cyrano's victory, but Le Bret admonishes his friend for wasting his skill on frivolous brawls. Cyrano replies that he fights in honor of his cousin Roxane, whom he adores from afar, though his grotesque nose has banished all hope of winning her. When Roxane's duenna brings a request for a tête-à-tête the next morning, Cyrano's dream is reawakened, and he is ready to fight an army of giants. Learning that his friend Lignière is the target of 100 hired thugs set on by the pompous De Guiche in revenge for an unflattering poem, Cyrano, buoyed by the prospect of his tryst with Roxane, promises to take the villains on single-handed and invites the admiring crowd to watch.

ACT II. In the shop of the pastry chef Raguenot, the proprietor awaits the poets' society that meets there. Cyrano asks to be left alone with Roxane when she arrives and nervously begins a love letter to her. The poets withdraw as she enters. She thanks Cyrano for defying the Vicomte, whom the married De Guiche, himself in love with Roxane, has tried to impose on her as a compliant husband. Then, recalling the bonds of their childhood, she confides that she is in love. But Cyrano's hopes are dashed when she describes her beloved as handsome and names Christian. Roxane exacts a pledge from Cyrano to protect Christian from duels with his fellow cadets, then departs, sending word that Christian should write to her. Carbon, captain of the Guards, arrives with the company to salute Cyrano's latest exploits. Tweaked by the supercilious De Guiche, Cyrano and Carbon boast of their roughneck, devil-may-care regiment. De Guiche offers his protection to Cyrano, who rejects it scornfully. Christian, warned by the cadets not to mention Cyrano's nose, taunts the great swordsman to prove his bravery. Bound by his promise to Roxane, Cyrano lets the insult pass and, left alone with the new recruit, delivers Roxane's message. Christian protests that he cannot write: he is hopelessly inept at words of love. Cyrano, offers his services as ghostwriter: with his eloquence and Christian's beauty, they will make a lover worthy of Roxane.

Outside Roxane's balcony, De Guiche brings her word that the Guards, under his command, have been sent to besiege Arras. When Cyrano comes to herald Christian's arrival, she withdraws, leaving instructions for her suitor to extemporize on the theme of love. Cyrano, summoning Christian, offers to prepare a script for him, but he says he will woo for himself. No sooner has Roxane reappeared than Christian finds himself tonguetied. When she scornfully dismisses her stammering lover, he appeals to Cyrano, who, under cover of darkness, softly pours forth his own words of love. Roxane is swept away by his eloquence, and Christian climbs up to the balcony to embrace her.

ACT III. Camped outside Arras, the soldiers sleep, while LeBret and Carbon keep watch. Cyrano returns from behind enemy lines, where he has ventured day and night to deliver love letters to Roxane, written in the name of Christian, who is now her husband. When the soldiers awake, half-starved, Cyrano summons a shepherd to distract them with airs of their native Gascony, saying nostalgia is a nobler malady than hunger. De Guiche enters with news that the Spanish are mounting an attack. Facing all-but-certain death, Christian longs to send Roxane a last farewell. Cyrano says it is already written and Christian, demanding to see it, is amazed to discover a tearstain on the page. A carriage arrives, bearing Roxane, who has braved enemy fire in the name of love. Learning that the battle is imminent, she refuses to leave, saying she will die with her beloved. Alone with Christian, she confides that, though she once admired him for the beauty of his face, it is the soul he has revealed in his letters that has truly won her heart. Christian, stunned, sends her to cheer his comrades and calls for Cyrano. Repeating Roxane's declaration, he urges his friend to confess his long-repressed passion and let the lady choose between them. When Cyrano demurs, Christian summons Roxane and rushes into battle. Roxane affirms that she would love the author of the letters even without his beauty, and Cyrano is about to speak when the soldiers carry in the body of Christian. Honoring his friend's memory, Cyrano watches in silence as she finds his last letter in Christian's pocket, then bids her farewell and hurls himself into the fray.

ACT IV. Fifteen years later, in the garden of the convent where she now lives, Roxane receives the repentant DeGuiche. LeBret brings word that Cyrano's attacks on hypocrisy have made him more enemies than ever. Ragueneau rushes in, agitated, and drags LeBret away. Cyrano enters, pale and with his hat drawn down over his eyes, apologizing that an unexpected caller has made him late for his visit for the first time in fourteen years. He begins to regale Roxane with the news of the week, but she grows alarmed when he trails off in mid-sentence. Coming to, he assures her that it is only his old wound from Arras and reminds her of her long-ago promise to let him see Christian's letter of farewell. She gives it to him and he begins to read aloud. Roxane, suddenly recognizing the voice beneath her balcony, realizes that the letters were Cyrano's all along. When Le Bret and Ragueneau come in search of him, he finishes the day's "gazette" by reporting his own death at the hand of hired assassins. He has dragged himself from his deathbed to visit her. Roxane, crying that she loves him, begs him to live, but it is too late. Cyrano says he will greet death - the unexpected caller -as he has lived life, with his sword in his hand and fighting to the end. Saying that death may rob him of his laurels but never his panache, he falls lifeless.


-- courtesy of Opera News