“Le Roi d’Ys,” or “The King of Ys,” is an opera in three acts and five tableaux, the music by Édouard Lalo set to the poem of Édouard Blau who has made use of an old Breton legend. It was first presented in Paris in 1888.
Mylio. Prince of Karnac. The King. Saint Corentin. Margared, Jahel, daughters of the King. Rozenn, People, soldiers, gentlemen, pontiffs, horsemen, ladies and followers.
On the terrace of the palace of the king, we are introduced to a gay company ,among whom the monarch’s daughters Margared and Rozenn are prominent. It is upon the fair Margared that all eyes are centered, for she is soon to be led to the altar by Prince Karnac, to whom her father has promised her in order to end a bloody war. She is pensive and distrait in the midst of the rejoicing. When she and her sister gain a moment apart, Margared admits that although she is glad to be of service to the country, she carries the image of another in her heart. As Rozenn suspects, it is that of Mylio, who is a captive in other lands. It is Mylio whom Rozenn loves, too, although of this Margared is unaware. To make the unhappiness of the Princess all the more poignant, her women remind her that the bridal hour approaches. The King, addressing the Prince as the rival ” in whom he has found a son ” commends him with stately compliment to the people as their future sovereign. Suddenly Mylio appears upon the scene and the impulsive Margared sacrifices her resolution to save the kingdom to her own desires rekindled by the sight of the long-absent companion of her childhood. She declares that the marriage shall never come to pass, and is deaf to the remonstrances of her father and the people. The Prince of Karnac, furious at the insult, thrown down his glove and Mylio accepts it.
In Act II, Margared, from a window of the palace, watches Prince Karnac lead his soldiers against the city, and overhears a loving interview between her sister and Mylio before he goes forth to meet the foe. He encounters Rozenn’s fears with his own confidence of victory which he believes assured from the fact that while praying before Saint Corentin he heard a voice from on high promising protection. As the two are folded in each other’s arms, Margared overhears Rozenn murmur the words, ” my husband ” and reels against a pillar with the thirst for revenge born in her heart.
In the combat, the victory goes to Mylio, and the worsted Prince takes refuge in the chapel of Saint Corentin calling upon all the powers of evil for assistance. Margared comes out from the shadows.
” Hell listens,” the woman scorned says quietly. If he so desires, yesterday may be made as but a remembrance. But how can that be with an army already perished? She suggests that there is an ally more terrible than war, the ocean. She will give him the keys to the sluices which protect her father’s city from the sea.
At this the sky is obscured, and in contrast to the ominous darkness, a strange glow fills the chapel. The statue of Saint Corentin rises to hurl reproaches at the betrayer, while a voice from the tomb urges repentance. Gradually the vision is effaced, leaving Margared upon her knees.
Act III opens with the marriage of Rozenn and Mylio, a scene full of charm and tenderness. Margared has disappeared from the ken of her relatives, but Karnac seeking her to fan the possibly ebbing flame of her vengefulness finds her watching the ceremony from afar. It is as he has feared, the crime appears too hideous now. But he taunts her, knowing the weakness of her jealous heart. Does she not see her hero bending to gaze into another woman’s eyes? Does she not hear the sound of the bridal music? The ceremony must be now about at an end. He paints the picture which Margared’s averted eyes shrink from beholding. The newly wedded pair are issuing from the chapel; their hearts are fluttering with a sweet emotion ; one is thinking, ” He is mine;” the other says, ” How fair she is ;” he bids her fancy how the evening breeze will carry to her the echo of their kisses.
Karnac succeeds. Margared goes to get for him the keys of the sluices. Coming back, she hears her father sorrowing over the loss of both his daughters, one by marriage, the other .a fugitive from the palace. She hears Rozenn trying to comfort his sadness, and learns that they speak of her tenderly. It is too late for regret. The water is rising in the streets. The people fly to a hill, the King carrying the reluctant Margared with him. As they watch in temporary safety from the eminence, they see the stately palace devastated and many victims claimed by the sea. Then Margared, stricken with remorse, acknowledges herself to be the guilty one and throws herself into the flood. Saint Corentin accepts the sacrifice and the angry sea retires.
Striking passages in the brilliantly modern score are the opening chorus in which the people rejoice in the conclusion of the war, ” C’est l’aurore bénie (” ‘Tis the dawn of blessed peace “) ; in the second act, Margared’s reverie, as she watches at the window; in the third, the wedding chorus of girls and young men; Mylio’s bridal song, addressed to the door of Rozenn, ” Vainement, O bien-aimée (” Vainly, oh! dear beloved “) ; the scene in which Karnac goads Margared to persist in her revenge and the prayer of the people that the waves may recede, ” O Puissance infinie ” (” O God of mighty power “).