Marguerite returns to her apartment with her guests after an evening at the theatre, accompanied by her escort, the Baron de Varville. There are flirtations and camaraderie, liberally sprinkled with bottles of champagne, and the guests dance their enjoyment. Suddenly, the smitten Armand enters escorted by Prudence, an opportunistic ex-courtesan and milliner. At last Marguerite succumbs to Armand’s advances and invites him secretly to her boudoir after the soiree.
Marguerite and Armand, in the summer of their love, are joined by guests for a picnic and relaxation. The festivities are interrupted by the arrival of the Baron de Varville, who demands the return of Marguerite. Dusk is falling down when Duval Sr., father of Armand, appears unannounced asking that Marguerite renounce her love for Armand so that he and his family might continue their lives in social acceptability. The ill Marguerite reluctantly agrees, and sets forth a plan to delude Armand into believing she no longer loves him and wishes to return to her protector, Baron de Varville.
Olympe is giving a grand party. A weakened Marguerite and the Baron de Varville enter. Armand, overwhelmed by the passion of his loss, publicly humiliates Marguerite. The Baron de Varville challenges Armand to a duel; the challenge is accepted.
Ill and alone in her dementia, Marguerite envisions the realities and possibilities of the triumph of Olympe and the realization of her inevitable loss. In her death, she relives the passion of her love and rediscovers her innocence.
A full synopsis and background information are available in the programme booklet.