The theater is set for a performance by the famous actor, Montfleury. Gradually, a crowd of tradesmen, lackeys, pages, gentlemen and marquis arrive. Christian, a newly arrived cadet from the provinces, expresses his admiration for the beautiful Roxane to Lignière, a fellow military guardsman. Ragueneau, the baker and amateur poet enters searching for Cyrano, the pride of the Cadets, whom Ragueneau describes as a jack-of-all-trades with an outstanding and unique physical trait. Roxane, accompanied by her nurse, takes her seat for the performance, while Lignière informs Christian that Roxane, in addition to being Cyrano’s cousin, has also caught the eye of the powerful Count De Guiche. The Count plans to marry Roxane to the Marquis de Brisaille, a man of his own choosing; a man who will be amenable to De Guiche’s own desires for Roxane. Lignière, bored with the proceedings and preferring to return to his vice at the tavern, departs; at the same time, an unknown man approaches Christian, informing him that 100 assassins are awaiting Lignière at the Gates of Nesle because he has satirized a powerful Parisian. Christian runs off to warn Lignière of the impending danger. Meanwhile, the performance begins with a Baro monologue recited by Montfleury. Upon hearing the first few stanzas, Cyrano bursts in to stop the performance, chasing Montfleury off the stage and admonishing the actor, whom he had previously banned from performing for a month. De Guiche and fellow members of the nobility are scandalized by Cyrano’s action, and the Marquis de Brisaille challenges Cyrano to a duel. The Marquis ridicules Cyrano by drawing attention to his large nose. In a monologue, Cyrano decries the Marquis’ lack of creativity, and in flowing verse describes his own nose. After the duel, Cyrano’s friend Le Bret chastises him, warning him that he is making too many enemies he also questions the origins of Cyrano’s hatred of Montfleury. Cyrano replies that he has hated Montfleury ever since the actor deigned to look at Roxane in a lustful fashion. Cyrano admits that he is in love with his cousin, but his nose precludes even an ugly woman from loving him. Cyrano is stunned when Roxane’s nurse enters, requesting a private meeting between the cousins. Cyrano instructs the nurse to arrange for Roxane to meet him after church at Ragueneau’s pastry shop. His dreams awakened, Cyrano declares his readiness to fight an army of giants. Learning of the plot against his friend Lignière, and buoyed by the prospect of his meeting with Roxane, he marches off to face the 100 men single-handedly, inviting the crowd to witness his feat.
Act I, Scene 2
In the shop of Ragueneau, Cyrano impatiently counts the minutes until his meeting with his cousin, Roxane. In order to be alone with her, Cyrano tells Ragueneau to allow Roxane’s nurse to indulge in all the pastries she desires. Roxane enters and thanks Cyrano for his actions last night. Then, recalling their youth spent together in Bergerac, Roxane admits that she is in love. She describes the man she loves in detail, each detail corresponds to Cyrano until she mentions that the man she loves is handsome. Cyrano is disheartened to learn that the object of Roxane’s desire is not he, but Christian, the new cadet and fellow member of Cyrano’s regiment. She admits that the two have never spoken to each other, but from Christian’s handsome appearance she can guess that his soul is also beautiful. She exacts a pledge from Cyrano that he will befriend the new cadet, watch over him and encourage him to write to her. The Cadets and public burst in saluting Cyrano’s exploits. De Guiche offers Cyrano his patronage, which Cyrano rejects, saying he wishes to be beholden to nobody. In an attempt to impress the cadets and prove his bravery, Christian insults Cyrano’s nose. Cyrano orders the soldiers to leave so that he can speak privately to Christian. Left alone, Cyrano delivers Roxane’s message. Christian admits that he is inept at words of love, but Cyrano offers his services as a writer. His poetic talents along with Christian’s good looks will combine to make a worthy lover for Roxane.
Cyrano’s ghostwritten letters have caused Roxane to fall passionately in love with Christian. She impatiently awaits the arrival of a new letter. Roxane reads the new letter, singing the praises of he, whom she believes to be the author, Christian. Outside Roxane’s house, Roxane confides in Cyrano how much she admires Christian’s beauty and spirit, reciting a letter that she has received from Christian. She warns Cyrano to leave as she sees De Guiche approaching. De Guiche tells Roxane that the guards under his command have been ordered to besiege Arras. She is frightened when it is revealed that Cyrano and Christian’s regiment is part of the vanguard. She attempts to persuade De Guiche to keep Cyrano’s regiment in Paris.
De Guiche, completely taken by Roxane, agrees to her proposition. Cyrano enters heralding Christian’s arrival. Roxane leaves instructions to her suitor to improvise and elaborate on the meaning of love. Cyrano tells Christian that he will help him, but Christian refuses, preferring to court Roxane himself. Roxane appears, and Christian commences to charm Roxane with disastrous results. After Roxane has dismissed her lover, Cyrano appears, and under the cover of darkness, feeds Christian lines to woo Roxane. She reappears on the balcony, and Cyrano takes over, pouring forth words of love. Roxane, overcome by Cyrano’s articulate words, allows Christian to climb up to the balcony for a kiss at this moment, Cyrano realizes that she is, in fact, kissing his words. Cyrano feigns his own arrival just as a Capucin Monk appears with a letter for Roxane from De Guiche, stating that De Guiche is awaiting her in the monastery. Realizing that De Guiche will demand a carnal rendezvous, Roxane tells the Capucin that the letter mandates that she secretly marry Christian. Roxane tells Cyrano to delay De Guiche for a quarter of an hour while the ceremony takes place. De Guiche arrives, and upon realizing that Roxane and Christian are married, orders Cyrano’s regiment to take part in the Siege. Separated from her new husband, Roxane orders Cyrano to watch after Christian, and to make him write to her frequently, to which Cyrano ironically responds that he can quite easily promise.
Act III, scene 1
The regiment is camped outside Arras, the soldiers sleep while Cyrano returns from behind enemy lines, where he has ventured each day to deliver letters to Roxane in the name of her husband, Christian. Le Bret chastises him for putting himself in danger, but Cyrano nonetheless leaves to write another letter. De Guiche enters announcing that the Spanish will soon attack, signaling certain death for Cyrano and the rest of the regiment. Christian says that he will write a last farewell to Roxane, but Cyrano announces that the letter is already written and gives it to Christian. Christian looks at the letter and notices a tear stain on it. Cyrano tells him that he himself cried while writing it, as dying is not as terrible as not seeing Roxane again. Roxane arrives, having crossed enemy fire in order to see Christian, to die with him. Along with Ragueneau she distributes food to the starving French troops. Left alone, Cyrano tells Christian that he has written to Roxane more times than he had revealed. Roxane, now alone with Christian, tells Christian that it is not his beauty that she loves, it is the soul expressed in his letters to her. She declares that she would love him even if he were ugly. Christian sends Roxane to entertain and encourage the troops, who are aware that they are facing certain death. He calls Cyrano and tells him that it is he, Cyrano that Roxane loves. He guesses his friend’s long-suppressed passion and urges Cyrano to reveal his true feelings to Roxane. Christian calls Roxane, telling her that Cyrano has something to tell her, and rushes off into battle. Roxane confirms that she would love Christian even if he were ugly. Just as Cyrano is about to reveal the truth to Roxane, French soldiers enter carrying the mortally wounded Christian. In a supreme act of selflessness, Cyrano lies, telling his friend that he has told Roxane everything, and that it is Christian that she truly loves. Grieving over Christian’s body, Roxane finds the farewell letter, and falls crying, as De Guiche announces the battle cry, and Cyrano rushes off to battle.
Act III, scene 2
Fourteen years later, Roxane has entered a convent, and in the courtyard awaits a visit from her faithful friend and cousin. As Cyrano enters, Roxane remarks that this is the first time in 14 years that Cyrano has arrived late for one of their visits. She senses that he is not himself. He replies that his behavior is the result of an old wound, to which Roxane replies, everyone has an old wound. She takes out the last letter indicating that the letter is her wound. Her cousin asks if he may see the letter. As he begins to read aloud, she realizes that he knows the text by heart, and recognizes the voice from the balcony and realizes that the letters were Cyrano’s all along. As she asks him why he decided to break his silence today, she notices blood coming from his head. He tells her that an assassin sent by an enemy has struck his head. Roxane remarks that she has loved only one soul in her life, and has lost him twice. As Cyrano dies, he declares that, in spite of the pain of not being able to be with Roxane, he is grateful to her for having been such a beautiful presence in his life. He expires proclaiming that in spite of his death, his enemies will not be able to take from him his panache.
- By Roberto Mauro