Jean: Patrick Power
The Prior: Christian du Plessis
Boniface: Sergei Leiferkus
A Musician Monk: John Cashmore
A Sculptor Monk: Richard Robson
A Painter Monk: Peter McBrien
A Poet Monk: Grant Shelley
A Pardoner Monk: Brendan Cavanagh
Man in the crowd and offstage voice: Richard Lloyd-Morgan
Angel: Virginia Kerr
Angel: Alexandra Mercer
Martin: Tony Friel
|Yan Pascal Tortelier
|Terry John Bates
There is singing and dancing in front of the monastery; Jean, a juggler, wants to earn money entertaining passers-by. Rejecting his clumsy tricks, they demand a profane song 'Halleluiah to wine'. He resists at first but then sings it. The Prior appears and takes Jean to task but seeing that Jean is filled with remorse, the Prior asks him to join the monks, to save his soul and body.
Inside the monastery the monks undertake their various duties. Jean sees that although they honour the Virgin with beautiful Latin prayers, he is unable to offer her any thing. The other monks quarrel as they offer to take him as a pupil. Befriended by the monastery's cook, Boniface sings him the legend of the sage bush which humbly opened its branches to shelter the Infant Jesus as He slept. When Jean sees that the other monks are offering lavish and beautiful gifts to the newly completed statue of the Virgin Mary, he, having no real gift, resolves to do what he can do best.
The painter and sculptor monks admire their newly completed statue of the Virgin. As Jean enters the former hides behind a pillar, and watches as the juggler takes his habit off and puts his old street clothes on, at which the hidden monk goes to warn the prior. Playing his hurdy-gurdy, he dances, until the other monks enter, horrified, and are about to seize Jean to reprimand him for blasphemy. Boniface stops them as the statue of the Virgin comes to life, holds out her arms and blesses Jean. Jean falls to his knees as a heavenly light glows from the altar the Virgin ascends to Heaven. As the prior sings the words Massenet placed at the top of his score "Heureux les simples, car ils verront Dieu" (Blessed are the poor in spirit for they will find God), Jean dies, and the other monks, and angels, sing Amen.