Le Pré Aux Clercs - Synopsis - Act 1

Act 1

The opera opens at Nicette’s country inn where festivities anticipate the wedding of Nicette (the god-daughter of Marguerite) and Girot, the host of the famous Pre-aux-Clercs in Paris – known both for lovers’ rendez-vous and for duels. Marguerite, wife of Henry IV, king of Navarre, and sister to Henry III, king of France, while detained at the Louvre as a hostage of peace between the two sovereigns, has been accompanied by Isabelle de Montal, a Béarnaise countess. The King of Navarre sends as envoy the Baron de Mergy, a young Béarnaise gentleman, to recall his Queen and her lady-in-waiting Isabelle. Resting after his arrival at Étampes, near Paris, Mergy meets Cantarelli, an Italian, the director of the court festivities and deportment tutor to Isabelle, who informs Mergy of the news from the court concerning Isabelle. The rough swordsman Comminge, a colonel and royal favourite also arrives, angry at having been kept away from the royal hunt by a challenge to a duel from a young man, whom he had killed. Next Marguerite and Isabelle, having been with the royal hunting party in the forest, come to visit Nicette. The Queen expresses her concerns for Isabelle's unhappiness and rejection of suitors at court. Isabelle responds that she wishes to return home; Marguerite however informs her of the plans to marry Isabelle to Comminge. When Isabelle reacts to this news, Mergy comes to her and the lovers embrace; their emotion causes suspicion in Comminge, to whom Mergy is introduced as Henri III's messenger. Marguerite invites Nicette to the Louvre to claim her dowry.

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