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Jacquerie, La (S. Arnaud & É. Blau)




Synopsis :

Act I

The year is 1358. In the village of Saint-Leu-de-Cérent, near Beauvais. The feudal castle of the Count de Sainte-Croix is visible on the horizon.

The Count de Sainte-Croix is about to give his daughter, Blanche, in marriage to the Baron de Savigny. He intends his serfs to furnish the bride’s dowry, however, and he sends his Seneschal to tell them so in no uncertain terms. This demand infuriates the peasants, who protest to the Seneschal while he is there but, when he leaves, turn their thoughts to rebellion and are urged to resist by one of their own, the woodcutter, Guillaume. The rebels need a leader and want to appoint Robert, newly returned from Paris, who is the son of the farmer’s wife. A fanfare announces the imminent arrival of the Count, so they all go their separate ways, arranging to meet in the forest that same evening. Alone, Blanche daydreams about the young man whom she nursed in Paris and whose name she does not know.

Act II

A clearing deep in the woods.

Night has fallen and the peasants have gathered. They pledge to rise up against their oppressors and to fight to the death to escape serfdom. Robert fires their courage, but tells Guillaume – who is calling for ‘Revenge and death!’ – that they should shout instead for: ‘Fairness! Mercy! Justice!’ The peasants then acclaim him as their leader. He accepts but his mother, Jeanne, arrives, fiercely opposed to the will of everyone present. In the  end, she is won over by her son’s arguments and eventually capitulates. As she kneels before the foot of the cross to beseech the Virgin to protect her son, everyone else kneels, singing a Stabat Mater.


The Feudal Castle of the Count de Sainte-Croix.

A festival is underway at the castle, but is interrupted by mounting noise. The peasants, overturning everything in their way, rush into the castle under Robert’s leadership and threaten the count. The Jacques want their seigneur to accept their conditions, but he haughtily refuses, responding with insults and contempt. Blanche, attracted by the noise, runs to her father, whom one of the conspirators wants to strike down with an axe. She means to die with him and Guillaume is about to strike her when Robert recognises her as the young woman who saved his life in Paris after he was injured in a riot. He defends her from everyone, at the risk of being regarded as a traitor by his friends, some of whom begin looting. Robert and Blanche flee.

Act IV

A ruined chapel, in the middle of the forest.

Recovering from their surprise, the local seigneurs have rallied: they too have joined forces and have crushed the defeated Jacques who have fled and are being hunted down everywhere. Blanche is with Jeanne and the two women lament, the former bewailing the death of her father and the latter the fate of her son, about whom she has no news. As Jeanne leaves, Robert arrives looking for Blanche. He wanted to see her one last time. She reproaches him for killing her father, whom he indignantly denies murdering, all the while concealing from her the love he hardly dares to confess. Then Guillaume enters and violently accuses Robert of being a traitor. When Blanche realises they are about to die, she confesses to Robert that she loves him too. The Jacques burst in but, before they can kill the two lovers, the seigneurs arrive to save Blanche. Guillaume just has time to attack Robert and plunge a dagger in his heart. When Blanche sees the man she loves die, she swears to retire to a convent.

    Persons - 2
  • ARNAUD, Simone (1850-1901)
  • BLAU, Édouard (1836-1906)
  • Work - 1
  • Jacquerie, La (É. Blau & S. Arnaud / É. Lalo & A. Coquard)