S,colS,2T,Bar,4B; chorus; ballet;
3(II,III=picc).2(II=corA).2(II=Ebcl).altocl(bhn).bcl(=altocl or bhn).2tsax.bsax.3(III=dbn)-22.214.171.124-timp.perc-2harps-strings;
reduced orchestration: 2.picc.2.2.altocl.bcl.2.dbn-126.96.36.199-timp.perc(4)-2harps-cel(pft)-org(harmonium)-strings;
other orchestrations with further reduction are possible; stage music can be played from orchestra, but preferably on tape
Jupiter orders Mercury to prepare a new amorous adventure. He has his eye on Alcmene, the beautiful wife of the Theban field commander Amphitryon, who is kept from home by a war against Athens. The god, who may not present himself in his real form, chooses the form of Amphitryon and spends a night with Alcmene who thinks him to be her husband returned early from war. When Amphitryon's servant Sosias appears on the following morning, announcing the victory over Athens and the return of the troops, he runs into his reflection alias Mercury, who had been on guard during the night. A mad game about appearance and reality begins, creating confusion and consternation. Alcmene is more than a little surprised to find her husband returning for a second time a few hours later. Amphitryon, who suspects there is a rival, goes to get witnesses to prove that he has not left the camp during the night. Alcmene, deeply hurt, already thinks of separating from him, when Jupiter-Amphitryon appears and confesses: "It was no mortal who appeared before you, Zeus himself visited you." Had she not imagined the god in Amphitryon's form when she had prayed to him, it being impossible to think of him otherwise? Who is it really that she loves? The commanders, who are sent for immediately, and the people of Thebes are faced with two Amphitryons and believe Jupiter to be the real one. Then he reveals his identity and tells Alcmene that she has conceived a son that night, whose name shall be Hercules. When Jupiter departs to Olympus in his sun carriage, Alcmene awakes from her unconsciousness in Amphitryon's arms.