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The Story of 'Iphigénie en Tauride'

ACT ONE:The action begins five years after the Trojan War. Back in Aulis, Iphigeneia's father, Agamemnon, had intended to sacrifice her. But her life was saved by the goddess Diana. Now in Tauris (Tauride), Iphigeneia is serving as a priestess among her own enemies, the somewhat barbaric Scythians.

Iphigeneia's mother, Clytemnestra has killed Agamemnon, and Iphigeneia's brother, Orestes, has killed Clytemnestra in revenge. Iphigeneia doesn't know any of this yet, but in act one, she relates a dream, in which both of her parents are dead, and she herself was forced by a "fatal power" to kill her own brother, Orestes.

Thoas, the Scythian king, has a vision of his own — a premonition that a foreigner will murder him. So when two strangers are brought in, he orders Iphigeneia and her priestesses to sacrifice them.

ACT TWO: When Iphigeneia meets the prisoners, she can't help but notice that one of them bears a strong resemblance to her brother, Orestes. Of course, it is him, but Iphigeneia doesn't find out for quite some time. The other stranger is Orestes' friend, Pylades. When the two prisoners are alone, Orestes is tortured by the Furies, who have hounded him ever since he killed his mother.

Iphigeneia and Orestes have a chance to talk. They've been apart for 15 years, and do not recognize each other. Iphigeneia finds out Orestes is Greek, and without revealing her identity, asks for news of her family. Orestes tells her what happened, but doesn't reveal his identity either. Instead, he says that everyone is dead, except for Elektra, her sister. Iphigeneia mourns for her supposedly dead brother, as the act ends.

ACT THREE:As the act begins, Iphigeneia is in a tough spot, though she doesn't know it yet. The Scythian king, Thoas, has ordered her to sacrifice the two Greek prisoners — Pylades and her brother, Orestes. Because brother and sister no longer recognize each other, each believes the other is dead.

Now, despite Thoas' order, Iphigeneia decides to allow one of the two prisoners to go free. She hopes it can be Orestes, as she has grown fond of him. But since all of the murders in his family, Orestes has felt he was going mad, so he urges Pylades to go free, feeling he himself is better off dead. Reluctantly, Pylades agrees to escape, with Iphigeneia's help.

ACT FOUR: Finally, it's time for Iphigeneia to go through with the sacrifice and kill Orestes. But at the sacrificial altar, the two finally recognize each other. When Thoas finds out who his priestess and the prisoner really are, he decides to kill them both. But just then, Pylades arrives with an army of Greeks. The two sides go to battle until the goddess Diana appears. She puts a stop to the fighting, then grants Iphigeneia and Orestes a safe passage home, and the opera ends.

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