Scene One – La fête de Raymonde
A room in the castle of the Countess de Doris
At the castle of the countess de Doris, preparations are underway for the celebrations of the young countess Raymonda’s name day (Jeux et danse). Sybille, her aunt, and an austere canoness, chides the pages and young girls for their idleness and their passion for dancing, reminding them of the legendary White Lady, the protector of the castle, who warns the Doris household every time one of its members is in danger and punishes those who do not fulfil their duties. The young people laugh at the canoness’ superstitions and continue to amuse themselves.A horn sounds and the Seneschal of the Doris castle announces the arrival of a messenger, sent by the knight, Jean de Brienne, bearing a letter for his lord’s betrothed, Raymonda. Countess Sybille goes to call her niece, while the girls throw flowers along the path that Raymonda will take. Raymonda runs in. She admires the flowers that the pages offer her (Entrée). Themessenger kneels and hands Raymonda the letter from her betrothed. Jean de Brienne informs Raymonda that king Andrew II of Hungary, for whom de Brienne has fought, is returning home in triumph, and de Brienne will be at the Doris castle the next day to be married to Raymonda. The girl rejoices. Local vassals and inhabitants enter and noisily congratulate Raymonda (Valse provençale – Pizzicato). After the dances, Raymonda orders a sumptuous reception and a Cour d’amour to be made ready in honour of her fiancé. Exhausted, Raymonda remains in the company of her dearest friends and of the troubadours (La Romanesque, Une Fantaisie). Suddenly, they all fall under a spell which makes them feel drowsy. Illuminated by the light of the moon, the White Lady appears, and with an imperious gesture, orders Raymonda to follow her.
Scene two – Visions
A shady garden; in the background, the high terrace of the castle of the countess de Doris
The White Lady, without making a sound, advances along the terrace. Raymonda follows her in a state of unconsciousness. At a signal from the White Lady, the garden is wrapped in mist. A moment later, the mist disappears and Raymonda sees herself next to Jean de Brienne. They are surrounded by La renommée (Glory), les chevaliers (knights) and les filles célestes (celestial maidens). The garden is illuminated by a fantastic light (Groupes et danses – visions). Raymonda expresses her joy to the White Lady, who interrupts her enthusiasm: “Look and see what awaits you”. Raymonda wants to return to her fiancé but she finds a handsome Saracen knight who has taken the place of Jean de Brienne. The stranger declares his passionate love for her. Raymonda is confused and upset, but she finds the strength to reject him (Scène dramatique). Imps and elves appear from everywhere (Danse des farfadets), surrounding Raymonda who begs the White Lady to save her. At that moment, the Saracen tries to take Raymonda by force: Raymonda cries out and falls to the ground in a faint. The frightful vision disappears along with the White Lady.
Act II – “Cour d’amour”
The courtyard of the castle of the Countess de Doris
The feast in honour of the arrival of Jean de Brienne is taking place. Paladins, knights, lords from neighbouring castles, eminent ladies, troubadours, minstrels and other guests at the Cour d’amour enter. Raymonda welcomes her guests. She is happy with the decorations of the courtyard, but she cannot hide her uneasiness caused by Jean de Brienne’s delay. Accompanied by a rowdy train of followers, Abderahman makes his entrance. Raymonda immediately recognises the Saracen seen in her dream. She is agitated and gives orders for him to be stopped from entering the castle courtyard. The countess Sybille, however, advises her niece to provide hospitality for anyone on that day (Grand Pas d’action). Captivated by Raymonda’s beauty,Abderahman reveals his passion for her, but remembering the warnings of the White Lady, Raymonda rejects him with contempt. She prefers the attentions of other knights who do not frighten her. Abderahman becomes even more insistent. He calls his slaves and he has them perform oriental dances for Raymonda (Pas des esclaves Sarrasines, Pas de Moriscos, Danse sarrasine, Panadèros). After the dances, Abderahman orders his cupbearers to enter. They pour a potion into everyone’s cup, causing all the guests to become drunk (Danse de échansons). Once he realises that the only way to possess Raymonda is by force, Abderahman orders his shield bearers to abduct her. But at that moment, de Brienne arrives at the castle accompanied by king Andrew II, his followers and army. Jean de Brienne frees Raymonda from the hands of the Saracens and tries to seize Abderahman. The king commands the two rivals to put an end to the matter in a duel, during which the ghost of the White Lady appears on the castle tower. Abderahman is dazed and de Brienne deals his fatal blow (Dénouement). The king joins the hands of Raymonda and Jean de Brienne.
Act III – Le festival des noces
The grounds near the castle of de Brienne
The wedding banquet
Andrew II, king of Hungary, the countess Sybille and the newly wedded couple are congratulated (Cortège hongrois). In honour of the distinguished guest, a Hungarian- style divertissement is given:
Pas classique hongrois
In the Apotheosis: a knightly tournament.
Synopsis by Pavel Gershenzon, translation by Chris Owen