The action takes place in India, in ancient times.
A quiet, remote forest, where a hermit and an anchoret live. In the distance lies a monastery. From afar, the noise of the Kings hunt can be heard. Upon the appearance of the King, the hermits beg him not to kill the gazelle he is pursuing. The King spares the poor animal, earning the gratitude of the ascetics who ask for his protection during the absence of their leader, Kanva, who has been missing for a long time. The hermits know that, according to a prophecy revealed by Kanva, the King will fall in love with Sakłntala, the beautiful maiden who was found in the forest and brought up by Kanva as a daughter. When the King catches a glimpse of Sakłntala, he falls in love with her. At first, he does not reveal his true identity, claiming to be a pilgrim sent by the King to visit their mountain monastery. He also discovers that the maiden is of royal lineage. After a passionate exchange, Sakłntala and the King unite in a tender embrace.
Two friends of Sakłntalas, Priyamvada and Anusuya, are laying out garlands for a religious service. Durvasas knocks on the gates of the monastery. No one answers his call to let him in. According to the law, only Sakłntala is allowed to open the gates, but she is nowhere to be found. In a rage, the hermit casts an evil spell on the maiden and proclaims that, when the King will meet Sakłntala again, he will not remember the girl nor the love they shared. Moved by Priyamvada and Anusuya, who are pleading forgiveness for Sakłntala, Durvasas agrees to add to the spell a new condition: the Kings memory will be restored when he is shown the royal ring that he gave Sakłntala. Unaware of what has happened, Sakłntala is languishing, feeling lonely and abandoned by her beloved. She is comforted by Kanvas, who has finally returned to the monastery. He tells her that he knows of her love for the King and that her union is being blessed with the birth of the royal heir, who will be the glorious future ruler of the world. Happiness finally returns to Sakłntala, who prepares to travel to the royal palace to meet her spouse. The forest resounds with the magical chants of the spirits of the mountains, who rejoice in Sakłntalas happiness. The sun sets with a fiery glow.
Inside the royal palace. Lying on a couch in the royal apartments, the King is unhappy and troubled and can find no comfort in the enticements offered by his courtesans. In order to lift his spirits, a sensuous and enigmatic dance is performed. Unable to find solace, the King dispatches dancers and singers and retires, melancholic and sorrowful. An equerry announces the arrival of the hermits, who are escorting a veiled woman. The King, under the influence of Durvasas spell, has no recollection of Sakłntala. The hermits explain to him the reason for their visit, to no avail. Sakłntala lifts her veil but the King, while struck by her beauty, fails to recognize her. She then looks for the ring but, realizing that she has lost it, flees in utter desperation. Shortly thereafter, the guards bring into the palace a poor fisherman, who is in possession of the royal ring. He is being held as a thief, even though he claims to have found the ring by the river shore. After seeing the ring, the King regains his memory and dispatches his guardsmen to find Sakłntala and bring her back to him. It is too late; she has cast herself into the pool of the nymphs and has disappeared, lifted to heaven on a cloud of fire. The King collapses in pain as the stage turns dark. Suddenly, he hears within his heart the sound of Sakłntalas voice. At the same time, the hermits enter, carrying his newborn son. The stage glows with a golden light and Sakłntala is heard comforting the King: their glorious son had to be born of her sacrifice; it was written by Fate. The King and all present kneel before the infant. Bells ring in celebration.
Giovanni Abrate's CD Notes, ©1996 Tryphon Enterprises