|Banca Dati 'Giulio Rospigliosi'||indice|
Alone in her dressing room, the actress Baltasara is tormented by anxieties. She tries to shrug them off - 'Am I not Baltasara?' - but can't. Her colleague Beatrice arrives, dressed to go on stage: 'Not ready yet, Baltasara?' Rodrico and Alvero, two cavaliers who have come to see the play, compare notes on it and the objects of their love, Beatrice and Baltasara.
The play begins. It is the story of the Saracen Clorinda and the crusade led by Godfrey of Boulogne to liberate Jerusalem from the infidels. Beatrice sings Vittoria in the Prologue, after which enter Aladino, Saracen King of Jerusalem, with Ismeno his counsellor and wizard. Ismeno promises enchantments to fend off the crusaders, Aladino a good fight.
Next Biscotto plays a none-too-competent Christian soldier accompanied by his truculent subordinate (acted by Lisa): 'Jerusalem can sleep safely with you to attack it'.
Baltasara launches into her big scene prematurely, to consternation backstage. An actor pulls her off, she apologises, and the play continues with Hircano, a Saracen captain, exhorting his soldiers to fight.
Baltasara, as Clorinda, now makes the right entrance, challenging Godfrey and his champions. She hears a sentry singing 'Life is short, use it well...' and starts to think: This is God speaking to me. He sings again. She takes it as a call to repent, and abruptly leaves the stage.
Alvero and Rodrico call after her from the audience. Her fellow actors have their say: Lisa wants her back, Biscotto thinks she's stubborn, Beatrice always thought she was daft. Lisa and other members of the troupe explain what's happened to the audience by singing a five-part madrigal on which sundry spectators comment. Aladino, unmasked, has the last word.
Baltasara has found repose in the desert close by the sea. Lisa and Biscotto arrive looking for her. Lisa: 'This is a landscape for repentance - I'm starving'. Biscotto: 'You've always got your Biscuit with you!' He sees writing on a tree: It says Baltasara is dead. Lisa reads it properly: No, only dead to the world.
Baltasara reveals herself, and Lisa and Biscotto beg her to come back for the sake of her public; as well as her they have lost Beatrice who went off to sea with one of the infidels, pursued by Rodrico. Failing to persuade her, Biscotto and Lisa leave wearily to look for lodgings.
The Devil appears, prowling, spots Alvero coming and sees his chance: 'Wat will you give me if I show Baltasara to you?' 'Everything I possess.' 'That'll do'; and the Devil shows him.
Alvero proclaims his love to Baltasara. She resists, then starts to follow him. A vision of the cross miraculously blocks her way. She thanks God for a narrow escape.
Alvero, bitter, ignores the Devil's scorn and decides to go to sea with Rodrico.
Biscotto returns dressed as a hermit. Lisa arrives, calling for horses to take her back home. 'Where', she asks the hermit, 'is Biscotto?' and Biscotto reveals himself. But he's decided to stay - Baltasara might need him - so Lisa decides to stay too.
Baltasara, fasting, falls asleep exhausted. The Devil and his cohorts prepare temptations for her. She wakes up, sees the enchantments, resists the Devil's lure back to the city, then falters by accepting a refreshing drink. She blesses it first, however; the cup falls, and the enchantments disappear.
The Devil is reduced to offering sweets to Lisa, who refuses them, and to Biscotto, who takes them and wishes he hadn't, they are so bitter. Lisa sings, 'all is not gold that glistens', and menacing figures are seen dancing across the waves.
Biscotto and Lisa are fishing. They watch an infidel ship pursued and sunk by a Christian one. A Turkish survivor comes ashore. She turns out to be Beatrice, distraught at the loss of her corsair lover. Biscotto and Lisa follow her. Rodrico, having dispatched his rival suitor in his ship, is also after her. He is angry, although he can't rid his heart of remnants of love.
Baltasara and Beatrice each talk to themselves as darkness falls. Baltasara perceives the night as full of etemal harmony, Beatrice as abhorrent. Baltasara hears the other voice and, too weak from continual fasting to move, calls Biscotto for help. They discover Beatrice whose deep despair turns to tranquillity as she listens to Baltasara and joins her in a song of praise.
Rodrico catches up with Beatrice and attempts to murder her. Baltasara intervenes and sends Beatrice with Biscotto to find a priest to bear witness to the coming events, while a dazzled Rodrico goes off to find Alvero.
Left alone, Baltasara cries out to go to Heaven. The echoes turn out to be Beatrice transformed into Penitenza who crowns Baltasara with roses. Together they sing: Death on earth is no death at all but unlocks the gates of Heaven. Penitenza orders a disconsolate Devil back to Hell triumphantly - at last Beatrice may play the warrior's part.
Lisa arrives, singing praise of hard won liberty, with by Alvero and Rodrico. They find Baltasara dead. Lisa and Alvero are inconsolable, while Rodrico, ever practical, proposes they build her a tomb. The witnesses arrive, and angels sing: 'Welcome to the theatres of Paradise'.
Performance ends at approximately 10.25 pm