Hippolyte et Aricie

Prologue

Diana, chaste goddess of the moon and the hunt, and Cupid, god of love, argue over who will dominate. Their quarrel is settled by Jupiter, who decrees that love will rule over all hearts for one day every year. Diana vows to protect the mortals Hippolytus (Hippolyte) and Aricia (Aricie).

Act I

Hippolytus is in love with a young woman, Aricia, the daughter of Pallas, the enemy of his father Theseus (Thésée), King of Athens. Pallas compels Aricia to take a vow of chastity to Diana. Before she does so, Hippolytus reveals his love for Aricia and Diana promises to protect the couple. This enrages Phaedra (Phèdre), Queen of Athens, who harbours an illicit love for Hippolytus, her stepson. News arrives that her husband Theseus is dead. Phaedra may now pursue her passion for Hippolyte and offer him the crown of Athens.

Act II

Neptune, father of Theseus, has promised to answer his son’s prayers three times during his life. Theseus’s first prayer is to reach Hades safely, where he hopes to rescue his friend Pirithous. Theseus fights with the Fury Tisiphone, but successfully reaches Pluto’s court. Pluto condemns Theseus to share the fate of his friend Pirithous, but allows him a trial. When Theseus loses, he prays a second time to Neptune, and Pluto is powerless to hold him. As Theseus is leaving, however, the Furies (Les Parques) predict that though he may leave Hades, he will find Hell in his own home.

Act III

Phaedra meets Hippolytus, who offers her his condolences on the death of Theseus. Mistaking his concern for love, Phaedra confesses her passion to him. Hippolytus is shocked and curses her. Phaedra tries to kill herself but Hippolytus prevents it. Theseus arrives unexpectedly. Unsure what to make of the scene, he accuses Hippolytus of trying to rape Phaedra. Phaedra rushes off and Hippolytus nobly refuses to denounce his stepmother. Theseus decides to use his last prayer to Neptune to punish Hippolytus.

Act IV

Hippolytus and Aricia have escaped together to Diana’s realm. A monster suddenly emerges from the sea to punish Hippolytus. He tries to fight it and is defeated. Phaedra confesses her guilt for Hippolytus’s death.

Act V

Theseus learns the truth from Phaedra, who takes her own life. Theseus too threatens suicide but Neptune reveals that Hippolytus is still alive, thanks to Diana’s protection. But for unjustly blaming his son, Theseus is condemned never to see him again.

In Diana’s realm, the goddess reunites Hippolytus and Aricia.