After performing their show for the King and Queen, Pierrot is quite exhausted with all the clowning. Seeing him in a trance-like state, Columbine believes that Pierrot has fallen out with her, thinking that she does not love him because she left him for Harlequin in the show. But Pierrot’s depression is deeper than that. He wants just a few moments alone, where he can take off his mask and not be expected to make jokes. He finds happiness in being himself, and falls asleep.
When he wakes up, he hears the voices of two lovers nearby. He is captivated by the beauty of their melodies, and joins in with his own, which is tinged with melancholy. Meanwhile, Columbine returns, looking for Pierrot. She hears his voice entwines with the Queen’s and assumes them to be having an affair. Both Columbine and the King demand that Pierrot tell them the truth, but he cannot; he does not know the identity of the Queen’s lover. The King sends him away, giving whispered orders to the guards, summons dancers for a great Bacchanal.
At the end of the celebrations, a piercing scream is heard. Pierrot’s body is hanging from a beam in the temple. Columbine has fainted, and the Queen looks on, horrified.
Described as a dance-dream, Ethel Smyth’s one act opera Fête Galante is a short, tragic story which combined characters from fairy tales and the commedia dell’arte tradition.
Fête Galante guide sections