Megacle Emily Fons
Aminta Ruby Hughes
Aristea Rosa Bove
Licida Tim Mead
Clistene Riccardo Novaro
Alcandro William Berger
Conductor Laurence Cummings
Director David Freeman
Designer David Rogber
Garsington Opera Orchestra
It is the day of the Olympic Games.
Licida, the prince of Crete, is waiting impatiently for the arrival of his friend Megacle. Licida persuades Megacle, a much finer athlete, to enter the Games in his name as he is desperate to win the first prize. Megacle is happy to oblige, as he owes Licida a debt for having previously saved his life, but he is unaware that the prize is the hand in marriage of Aristea, daughter of King Clistene, who is in charge of the Olympics and who has total power for the duration of the competition. Megacle goes to prepare for the Games.
The tutor Aminta, knowing that Licida is in fact already engaged to marry Argene, is wary of this scheme.
The edge of a forest
Argene is living in disguise as the shepherdess Licori. She is joined by Aristea, who has fled to the forest in distress because Megacle, her lover, has not, to her knowledge, turned up to compete in the Games. She is afraid that she will be compelled to marry someone else.
Aristea’s father, King Clistene, arrives suddenly to announce that the Games are about to commence and to insist on her return. Argene, left alone, laments that she has been abandoned by Licida.
Licida confides his love for Aristea to Megacle, who is shocked to realize that he has agreed to win his own lover’s hand for his friend. Megacle despairs. Aristea mistakenly assumes that he has come to win her hand in the Games. Megacle cannot find a way to explain the real situation. The Games commence.
Outside the Olympic arena
Women are not permitted to attend the Games. Argene and Aristea wait nervously to hear the results. Alcandro, adviser to Clistene, announces that Licida (in reality Megacle) has won. Both women are devastated. Left alone, Argene vows to revenge herself on Licida. Aminta attempts to reassure her of Licida’s love.
Clistene congratulates Megacle (disguised as Licida) on his victory. Megacle tries to leave but is prevented by the arrival of Aristea. Left alone with Aristea, Megacle reveals his deception – that he competed in the Games on behalf of Licida – and runs off. Aristea despairs and curses Licida.
Aminta breaks the news that Megacle has drowned himself. Alcandro tells Licida that his deception has been discovered and that Clistene has condemned him to exile on pain of death.
The edge of a forest
Megacle has not in fact drowned but has been rescued by a sherman. In the resulting confusion Aminta attempts to prevent him from making further suicide attempts. Aristea wants to die in the place where Megacle has died but is prevented by Argene. Alcandro comes with news that Licida has tried to assassinate Clistene and has been sentenced to death. Megacle decides that he must try and save him. Aristea thinks that she should go instead. Argene says he should be left to his fate but relents when Aminta describes Licida being prepared for sacrifice.
Clistene allows Licida to say farewell to Megacle. Aristea pleads for Licida’s life. A distraught Argene offers to die in his place. She shows Clistene a necklace given to her by Licida as a betrothal gift, proof that she is really a princess and not Licori the shepherdess. Clistene recognises the necklace as the one that his infant son, Filindo, was wearing when Alcandro was charged to abandon him at sea in order to forestall a prophecy that the son would kill the father.
Alcandro had not had the heart to abandon the child and instead had given him into the care of Aminta, who then relates that he had him adopted by the king of Crete. Licida is Filindo, Clistene’s son and Aristea’s brother.
It now looks as if Megacle can marry Aristea and Licida can marry Argene but Clistene reluctantly insists that the law is the law and must be followed. Licida still has to die. Megacle points out that the sun has set and with it Clistene’s authority over Olympia. Licida’s fate must be decided by the people.