Synopsis of Verdi's Opera, Jerusalem

A falsely accused soldier is exiled by the Papal Legate, despite his ability to victoriously lead the First Crusade and take control of Jerusalem. Learn what happens in this synopsis of Verdi's 1834 opera, Jerusalem.
A falsely accused soldier is exiled by the Papal Legate, despite his ability to victoriously lead the First Crusade and take control of Jerusalem. Learn what happens in this synopsis of Verdi's 1834 opera, Jerusalem. Emile Signol / Getty Images


Giuseppe Verdi


November 26, 1947 - Salle Le Peletier (The Paris Opera), Paris

Setting of Jerusalem:

Verdi's Jerusalem is set in late 11th century Toulouse and Palestine.

Other Verdi Opera Synopses:

Falstaff, La Traviata, Rigoletto, & Il Trovatore

Jerusalem, ACT 1

Helene, daughter of the Count of Toulouse, and her lover Gaston, Viscount of Beam, meet one last time in the count's palace early in the evening before he leaves the next day as a soldier in the First Crusade.  Their relationship has been frowned upon because neither of their families get along with one another, however, hours before Gaston is to depart, he resolves himself to bring both families together in order to mend their differences.

When the morning arrives, the Count announces that the two families have come to a mutual understanding and grants Gaston's wish to marry Helene.  The Count's brother, Roger, is furious with the announcement since he is secretly in love with Helene, and angrily leaves the room.  Meanwhile, the official representative of the Pope arrives with news that the Pope has declared Gaston as the leader of the crusade.  Gaston takes the position with honor and is given the Count's white cloak for his fierce loyalty.  As the party leaves the palace and enters the chapel, Roger returns with one of his lackeys and orders him to kill his rival.  He tells him it will be the man not wearing the white cloak and sends him inside the chapel.  Moments later screams are heard and the murderer rushes outside, quickly followed by a group of people.  Roger relishes in his evil victory, but nearly falls over when he sees Gaston appear announcing the Count has been stabbed.  The man is apprehended and brought in front of Roger for questioning.  Roger silently persuades him to point to Gaston as the perpetrator.  No matter how hard he protested, Gaston was unable to convince anyone of his innocence, and the Pope's legate exiles him.

Jerusalem, ACT 2

Years later, Roger, who has exiled himself out of guilt, is wandering the desert beseeching the lord for forgiveness.  Out of nowhere, he crosses paths with Gaston's squire, Raymond, who has been searching desperately for his lost group of Crusaders.  Raymond begs for Roger's help and quickly receives it; the two men gather their remaining strength and set out to find the missing men.  Helene and her companion, Isaure, have left the palace and journeyed into the desert in search of a hermit whom they hope will reveal Gaston's fate to them.  On their way, the run into Raymond.  When they ask about Gaston, he tells them that Gaston is alive, but he was captured and imprisoned in Ramla.  Raymond escorts the women to Ramla.

Gaston is brought into the palace of the Emir.  While he awaits for a meeting with the Emir, he longingly remembers Helene and begins devising a plan for escape.  When the Emir finally meets with him, Gaston is disheartened to hear that the Emir will punish anyone who escapes by death.  Just then, Helene is brought into the Emir's court, having been captured snooping about the city.  She and Gaston pretend not to know each other and they are left alone despite the Emir's doubts.  They are overjoyed to see one another again, but Gaston tells her she should not love him because he is a dishonorable man.  She refuses.  When they see Crusader soldiers approaching, they decide that now would be the time to flee.  Before they can make their way out, the Emir's soldiers enter to defend the palace.

Jerusalem, ACT 3

Helene is taken by a few soldiers and placed with the ladies of the harem.  As they walk about the harem gardens, she tells women he story.  The Emir arrives nearly panicked and announces that if the Christians are close to taking their city, he will deliver Helene's head to the Count.  After the Emir leaves, Gaston breathlessly runs into the gardens to find Helene after having escaped.  Before they can run to freedom, they are caught by the arrival of the Crusaders and Helene's father, who still believe him to be guilty of trying to murder the Count.  Helene madly protests on his behalf, but her efforts have no affect on them.  Her father and a few of his men take her away.

Gaston is escorted by a group of soldiers and positioned in front of the Legate.  They announce that he has been denounced by the Pope and sentenced to die.  His execution is to take place the next day.  Gaston begs his friends and fellow soldiers to spare him for he is an honorable and trustworthy man.  Again, no one believes him and his weapons and armor are destroyed.

Jerusalem, ACT 4

After Roger found the group of Crusaders, he has traveled with them and situated his tent near their camp.  Everyone believes him to be a hermit and does not know his true identity as the Count's brother.  When a group of soldiers and women return from the Emir's palace, Helene is seen walking among them.  She casually loiters around Roger's tent and listens to his conversation with the Legate, who ask him to provide comfort for Gaston and his last day on earth.  Gaston is brought to him and left alone.  Instead of blessings and prayers, Roger secretly passes a sword to Gaston and instructs him to fight in the name of the Lord.

Before Gaston is executed, he escapes amidst the confusion and uproar of battle.  The Crusaders have waged battle in control of Jerusalem.  Helene and Isaure nervously await news of the outcome within the Count's tent.  It isn't long before they hear the approaching men and their enthusiastic shouts of joy and laughter.  The Count, Legate, and a large group of soldiers enter the tent.  A man with his helmet still on is encouraged to come forward to receive praises of his heroism and bravery.  When he removes his helmet, everyone is shocked to learn that it is Gaston who led them to victory.  He tells them that now they can execute him.  Before they can decide what to do, Roger is carried in after having been mortally wounded.  He reveals his true identity and confesses his crimes.  He begs for his brother's forgiveness as well as Gaston's.  The Count doesn't hesitate to forgive him and Gaston's honor is restored.  Looking out over Jerusalem, Roger breathes one last time and dies.