Major roles: dramS,T; minor roles: 3S,2M,M/A,2T,Bar,B;
small roles: 3S,T; chorus
At a convent within whose grounds there stands a miraculous figure of the Virgin, a gypsy predicts a passionate existence for the devout yet rebellious nun Béatrice. She explains to the bishop of Palermo why she took the veil. Some years before, the mortal illness of a young man dear to her caused her to pray for his recovery, offering her own life to God if he was healed. The young man, Lorenzo, was revived and Béatrice entered the convent. Left alone, Béatrice is stunned to see Lorenzo himself come in search of her, and try to persuade her to go with him. She refuses, but he and his friends carry her off. At first she is happy as his mistress, but when she discovers him with another woman she repudiates Lorenzo and then wildly offers herself to all his companions. Four years pass, during which Lorenzo travels widely. On his return he finds himself in a low bar where, to his horror, he discovers Béatrice, who has become a prostitute working as a dancer under the name Ginèvre. He begs her forgiveness for having brought her by his unfaithfulness to this extremity, but flees when he sees her lascivious behaviour towards the local fisherman. Two of these argue over her, however, and one kills the other. Appalled, Béatrice blames herself for the crime. She returns a penitent to the convent, where she gains admittance without her absence having been noticed, for during the entire period the Virgin herself has taken her place. She kneels in worship with the other nuns.