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Thérèse (Jules Claretie)




From the Cd-Book Jules Massenet's Thérèse.


Act I

October 1792. Clagny, near Versailles. In the grounds of a château dating from the time of Louis XIV; on the left, steps leading up to the entrance.

André Thorel, the childhood friend of the Marquis Armand de Clerval, who has fled the events of the Revolution, has married Thérèse. Thorel has bought the Clerval family home to preserve it from looting and with the idea of restoring it to the marquis when peace has returned. A troop of soldiers on its way to Versailles makes a halt at the castle. Thérèse expresses to her husband her fears; he tries to reassure her, while extolling the virtues of patriotism and liberty. At the mention of his friend, the marquis, Thérèse quivers: how can she forget that Armand de Clerval and she were once secretly in love? As it happens, Armand is at that very moment in the grounds, having returned to see his home – hoping also to see Thérèse – before going to join the Royalist uprising in Vendée. While André is at the gate seeing to the soldiers, Armand revives Thérèse’s earlier feelings for him, but stoically she resists. André comes back and is delighted to see his old friend; he offers to accommodate him in their home. Just then, a municipal officer and a member of the National Guard arrive; the former is suspicious. He has seen that face somewhere before. André vouches for his friend: Armand is his companion, his brother.

Act II

Paris, June 1793. A wealthy middle-class interior of that time. At the back, a large bay window with a view over the Seine embankment; the river is visible beyond.

Thérèse and André are now living in Paris, where for several months they have been hiding Armand de Clerval in their apartment. The increasingly bloodthirsty hatred that prevails causes them to fear more and more for his life. André has therefore prepared a safe-conduct to enable his friend to escape. Morel, the janitor of the building, comes to warn André that an angry mob at the Tuileries is clamouring for the blood of the Girondins, the party to which he belongs. André leaves to join his friends. When he has gone, Armand tells Thérèse that, unless she agrees to go away with him, he will remain in the apartment and face death. She resists at first, but gradually succumbs to his persuasion. Morel returns, pale with fear: André has been arrested. Thérèse begs Armand to leave and promises to join him later. Then, looking out of the window, she sees with horror that André is among those in the tumbrel that is passing along the embankment on its way to the prison cells in the Conciergerie. Duty and fidelity outweigh passion and, thus signing her own death warrant, Thérèse cries out ‘Vive le roi!’ to the furious mob down below. She is taken away, to die with her husband.