Act I

Backstage at the Comedie Francaise. Actors prepare for the performance. Their nastiness makes Michonnet complain about the hardships of his life as a director. The Prince and the Abbot turn up, giving rise to gossip and ridicule. The Prince seeks to see the actress Duclos and learns that she has just hastily written a note to someone.
Adriana enters dressed to play Roxanne in Racine’s tragedy Bayazet. She is rehearsing her lines. The performance is to start soon. Michonnet is left tete a tete with Adriana and decides to confess his love, but Adriana has something to share with her friend first: her lover, an officer in the army of the Count of Saxony, has returned from war and will come to the show today.
Enter Maurizio, the Count himself, disguised as an officer. He swears his love for Adriana, and so does she in return. She gives him a bouquet of violets and rushes to the stage.
Meanwhile, the Prince learns from the Abbot that Duclos’s note was addressed to Maurizio. In it, Duclos invites him to her villa — which was a gift from the Prince. In a fit of jealousy, the Prince decides to throw a party at the villa and invite the entire theatre company in order to catch the unfaithful actress by surprise. Alas, he does not know that Duclos is arranging the date not for herself but for the Prince’s wife: the Princess expects the Count to show how grateful he is to her for supporting his political claims.
On stage, Adriana starts reciting Roxanne’s monologue. Michonnet watches her from behind the scene.
Maurizio is anxious to cancel his date with Adriana. He scribbles a note on a scrap of paper, which, according to Racine’s plot, Roxanne should receive. When Adriana is handed the note, she turns pale and almost loses consciousness. The audience bursts into applause, the actors broil with envy. The Prince invites the company to the villa.

Act II

Duclos’s villa. The Princess is looking forward to meeting Maurizio. When he finally arrives, the Princess notices a bouquet of violets on his lapel — a gift from Adriana. Maurizio does not confess the name of his beloved and re-gifts the flowers to the Princess.
The Prince and the Abbot appear, followed by Adriana. The Princess is hiding in the office. The Prince introduces Adriana to Maurizio — she recognizes her lover and is deeply hurt to learn that he has come on a date with Duclos. Maurizio assures Adriana that it was not love that brought him to the villa, but politics.
Adriana agrees to help her lover keep the meeting secret and to give the mysterious lady the key to the garden gate. The ladies meet, their faces veiled, only to realize that they are both in love with Maurizio. They have a heated discussion. Adriana wants to unveil the Princess, but she escapes through the secret door.


The Prince’s palace. The Abbot is in charge of the final preparations for the big reception. He tries his best to please the Princess, but she is thinking only of her rival whose name she does not yet know.
The Prince enters, followed by Adriana on the arm of Michonnet. The Princess recognizes her by the voice and tells her that Maurizio was wounded in a duel. Adriana collapses, confirming the Princess’s suspicions. The reception begins. The Count talks about his military successes, the Princess, in order to hurt Adriana, mentions the violets she received from Maurizio. Adriana responds by taking out a bracelet lost by a stranger in the villa. Everyone recognizes the Princess’s bracelet, but the public’s attention is distracted by the ballet: Paris chooses the most beautiful of the goddesses.
The princess, with feigned courtesy, asks Adriana to recite. Adriana recites the monologue of Phaedra, who is ready to cheat on her husband with a young lover, throwing the accusation of hypocrisy in the face of the Princess. The Princess decides to take revenge.

Act IV

Adriana is unwell — she misses Maurizio. Michonnet cannot stand her suffering and sends Maurizio a letter saying that it was Adriana who saved the Count from the Bastille, where he once ended up for his debts.
The actors of Comedie Francaise bring gifts to congratulate Adriana on her birthday and persuade her to return to the stage. To everyone’s joy, she agrees and, perking up, listens to the news about the Prince and Duclos.
Suddenly a new gift appears — a box with a note ‘From Maurizio’. Michonnet takes the guests to the next room. Opening the box, Adriana feels as if an icy wind has blown in her face — there is but a withered bouquet of violets. In desperation, she throws the flowers into the fire. Maurizio rushes in. Adriana reproaches him for being unfaithful. In response, Maurizio asks for Adriana’s hand.
Adriana is overwhelmed, but suddenly turns pale and fails to recognize her lover. Michonnet guesses what happened: the Princess sent poisoned flowers to her rival. For a moment Adriana comes to her senses, but the next minute madness overtakes her again — she sees herself on stage. Delirious, Adriana dies in the arms of Maurizio and Michonnet.