More Information: ALCESTE
The people are grieving for their beloved ruler King Admète, who is lying on his deathbed. A King of Arms declares that human knowledge and skill can no longer save him. Évandre, a confidant of the King, announces the arrival of the Queen Alceste and her children. She recalls the ruler’s good deeds for his people and his family. Now, she fears for the future of her children and the whole land, and begs the Gods for assistance. She shall plea for their grace and mercy with a sacrifice. As a divine presence passes through him, the High Priest of Apollon summons the Gods to give the grieving people their ruler back. The Oracle speaks: Admète shall die that very day unless someone declare themselves prepared to die in place of the King. Silence reigns. As the High Priest asks who might be prepared to sacrifice themselves, the crowd flees in terror. Alceste stands back and makes the decision to die for her husband. This service, which nobody is prepared to provide out of friendship and gratitude, can only be performed by love. The Priest announces that Alceste is already expected in the Underworld. For a moment, she laments the fate of her children. Emboldened by her own love, she then appeals to the Gods to fulfil their prophecy, and dedicates herself to Death.
The people rejoice. Like a miracle, Admète has cheated death. His gathered subjects praise their ruler and the Gods for their benevolence. The King appears and receives the homage of the mass. Drunken with joy, he is unable to comprehend the situation. Évandre discloses the Oracle’s statement to him and describes how an unknown hero has sacrificed himself for him. Admète shivers at the cruelty of the Gods, but the joy of his people overwhelms him. He and Alceste meet again, surrounded by rejoicing and happiness, but Alceste cannot conceal her sorrow from her husband. As he pressures her to speak, she slowly reveals what nobody knows: the hero who gave his life to save the King, is actually she. The shocked people cry at the King’s latest distress. Admète accuses Alceste of betraying her love for him. He would have preferred to die instead of Alceste rather than to live without her. In defiance of her husband, she reinforces her decision: she is ready to die in order to save Admète’s life.
As Évandre weeps at the hopeless situation, Hercule arrives after his long wanderings to dine with his friend Admète. Évandre tells Hercule of the Royal Couple’s impending doom: Alceste shall die and Admète not survive her death. The demigod declares himself prepared to rescue both. In the meantime, Alceste and Admète have already reached the entrance to the Underworld. Both of them insist on dying for the other. Alceste reminds the King of his responsibilities towards his people and his children. Admète assures her that his pain would be too much for him to bear if he were to blame for her death. Eventually, the Gods of the Underworld speak: one of the two must die, and Alceste must decide which. She immediately declares herself ready to die. Meanwhile, Hercule appears, drives away the Gods and brings Alceste back to life. Apollon himself then appears and praises Hercules’ valour: the Royal Couple shall live. The re-united family pay homage to Apollon and the people rejoice.