Raymonda - Synopsis
New version by Ray Barra
Music by Alexander Glasunow
The South of France, the castle of Raymonda, Countess of Doris. It is the celebration of Raymonda’s name day and at the same time of the patron saint of the house of Doris who is omnipresent as the ghostly White Lady. Among the guests at court there are Raymonda’s friends Clémence and Henriette, the troubadours Bernard and Béranger and Raymonda’s aunt, Countess Sybille. And there is Count Jean de Brienne to whom Raymonda is betrothed, befitting her rank. The men are preparing their next crusade. The King of Hungary, Andreas II, has arrived in order to recruit an army for the crusade, together with Jean.Act I
Scene I – The Name Day
The terrace of the castle
Everybody is awaiting Raymonda as is Jean, who wants to present her with a silk shawl as a farewell gift. Raymonda’s first solo immediately shows her as an exquisite young woman whose path is strewn with flowers. When Jean puts the shawl around her shoulders she seems to sense the symbolic power of this gift of love. Yet she also painfully senses that Jean’s feelings for her have no real depth, that he will leave her easily for his world of knightly fights, tournaments and crusades. The guests try to cheer Raymonda up with a grand valse and can even persuade her to dance a solo by which she tries to overcome her melancholy mood.Quite unexpectedly a new guest bursts in on the court: the Saracen prince Abderakhman. He tries to overwhelm Raymonda with presents which she refuses. However, at long last – deeply fascinated by the sensual power of the prince, - she accepts the gesture when Abderakhman presents her with a spray of jasmine.The festivities are ending, but Raymonda is hypnotized, bewildered by the sudden intrusion of an erotic elemental force upon her seemingly secure happiness with Jean. Clémence, Henriette and the two troubadours try to cheer her up. And in a dance with Jean’s shawl Raymonda tries to reassure herself of her love for him.
She takes leave of her friends and falls asleep. Entranced by the sweet scent of the jasmine that seems to embody an erotic oriental world, her shoulders wrapped in Jean’s shawl, the symbol of the perfect elegance of the court, she begins to dream.Scene II – The DreamThe White Lady leads Raymonda into an unknown world, beyond all material reality. Raymonda falls under the spell of the dance of a group of fairytale girls that finally leads her to a magic reunion with Jean in an adage. At the climax of the dream which follows the formal structure of classical ballet with the adage followed by variations for Clémence, Henriette, the White Lady and Raymonda herself, as well as a coda where Jean can demonstrate his virile strength – Raymonda suddenly sees the Saracen prince Abderakhman in the place of Jean and is overwhelmed by his fascination, his seductive power and blunt erotic attack. Only the intervention of the White Lady averts the extreme.
Raymonda awakens in deep confusion, with the shawl and the jasmine spray in her hands.Act II
Scene III – La Cour d’amour
Interior court in the castle of the Countess of DorisThe court society assembles for a festivity called “La Cour d’amour”, a popular pastime of the aristocracy in the South of France, at which troubadours court elegant ladies according to strict rules of etiquette. Jean de Brienne, busy with preparations for the crusade, is delayed and instead, Abderakhman appears. Raymonda is dismayed and delighted at the same time. They dance together and he observes the exquisite rules of the courtly festivity with perfect politeness. His entourage entertains the society with exotic dances ending in a bacchanale. At its climax, in a fury of passionate love, Abderakhman commands the abduction of Raymonda.At this moment Jean de Brienne and King Andreas II appear. The king urges the two men to decide their rivalry, as befits knightly rules, in a duel. This seems to end in a draw until the White Lady appears and gives Jean the strength to inflict a deadly wound on Abkerakhman. The Saracen dies at Raymonda’s feet. She is deeply distressed and can only see Jean as Abderakhman’s murderer.Jean senses Raymonda’s predicament, her repulse. Again he begins to court her and for the first time really endeavours to win her love. He succeeds in winning back her confidence.Scene IV – The Wedding of Raymonda and Jean de Brienne
Ballroom in the castle of the Countess of Doris
The wedding ceremony confirms the love between Raymonda and Jean de Brienne. In honour of the Hungarian King Andreas II the courtiers are dressed in Hungarian style, dance the czardas and finally the grand pas classique hongrois. It begins with a great adage for nine couples led by Raymonda and Jean. This is followed by variations for four men (Béranger, Bernard and two other troubadours), for two ladies (Clémence and Henriette), for Jean and finally for Raymonda. Her solo expresses her strength of character and secret melancholy of conquered pain. The coda leads to an apotheosis and the blessing by the White Lady.