About the Opera

THE STORY

Artaban, a Persian Magi, sees a sign in the heavens, and embarks on a lifelong journey that will lead him—through trials and tribulations—from false hope to true wisdom.

Scene 1 — Ecbatana (in Persia)

Artaban prays for a sign. A new star appears. Townspeople mock his faith, but Artaban sets out with three jewels to give to the newborn King of the Hebrews.

Scene 2 — Babylon

On his way join the Three Wise Men, Artaban pauses to help a dying Hebrew widow, and gives her one of his three jewels. The delay causes Artaban to miss the Wise Men’s caravan. He goes on alone.

Scene 3 — Bethlehem

Artaban arrives searching for the newborn King. He meets Rachel, a Hebrew mother who fears for the life of her own infant son. She’s heard rumors that soldiers are coming to slaughter infants in their beds. They seek the child whose parents are from Nazareth, but the family has already fled to Egypt. A centurion, Servius, arrives to read King Herod’s proclamation. Rachel guards the door of her home. Servius commands her to step aside. She refuses. He throws her down and goes for the door. Rachel grabs his leg to stop him. Servius draws his sword to slay the mother, but Artaban steps forward to stop the soldier’s arm. Servius threatens Artaban, who bribes the soldier with a bright red ruby, the second of his three jewels. The centurion accepts the bribe and moves on. Artaban, having missed the infant King in Bethlehem, heads off to Egypt.

Interlude

Artaban travels to Egypt in search of the King, performs many good deeds, and arrives 33 years later in Jerusalem.

Scene 4 — Jerusalem

Jesus is about to be crucified. Artaban, now old, hopes to buy Jesus’s freedom with his last jewel, but meets a slave tormented by her master. Artaban uses the last jewel to buy her freedom. When Jesus is crucified, there is a great earthquake. Artaban, who is now very old and weary of life, has a hart attack. As he is dying, he hears mysterious voices and answers them that he doesn’t remember ever doing anything for Christ, and that he, in fact, never even saw him. The voices redeem Artaban, answering: “Verily, I say unto thee, inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto Me.”

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