Saül, King of Israel, welcomed into his palace David, the shepherd who defeated the giant Goliath and a singer who possessed a voice capable of soothing the King’s distress. But he soon grew suspicious of David, suspecting the shepherd of wanting to depose him. The deep friendship the young man developed for his son Jonathas seemed to confirm Saül’s doubts. One day, in a fit of rage, he hurled his javelin at David, who escaped from the court and found refuge with the enemies of Israel, the Philistines, and their King Achis. But the Philistine army chiefs, jealous of his achievements, chased him away.
After David defeats the Amalekites, the Philistines recall David to their camp. Warriors, shepherds and prisoners, liberated by David, sing his glory. Later, alone, the young man is agitated: he fears that his return among the Philistines will take him to war against the Israelites and his friend Jonathas. King Achis prepares to meet Saul to negotiate a truce. He places the final decision with David, who pleads for peace.
Joabel, head of the Philistine army, attempts to provoke David to take up arms but the young man resists. Envious of the shepherd’s glory, Joabel seethes with rage and plots to fuel Saul’s suspicions in the hope that the truce will fail. Meanwhile David seeks out Jonathas and together with the shepherds they celebrate the beauties of peace.
During his consultation with Achis, Saul divulges his suspicions about David and instructs him to execute the young man. Achis refuses. When David presents himself to the King, Saul accuses him of treason and orders Jonathas to take revenge. When Jonathas declines, the King’s rage increases further. Horrified by the scene, David steals away and seemingly confirms Saul’s suspicions. He sets off in pursuit of David while Joabel basks in self-congratulation at the success of his calumny.
Doubtful of God’s support for his war against the Philistines, Saul, in disguise, visits a witch and asks her to invoke the ghost of Samuel, his illustrious predecessor. In response to the witch’s incantations, Samuel’s ghost appears and reveals that the Heavens have abandoned Saul and will take back all that was bestowed on him.
* This scene constitutes the prologue to the original opera. Through common agreement, the artists working on this production decided to insert it between Acts III and IV to ensure the clarity and coherence in the narrative.
Conscious that the truce has been broken, David prays to God. Jonathas finds him and reproaches him for having fled. Disconsolate, the two friends know they must part. Left alone, Jonathas is torn: should he follow his friend and abandon his father? But the sounds of fighting call him into battle. He resolves to protect David. Spewing invectives at Achis, Saul breaks the truce and Joabel relishes the King’s decision to engage in combat.
At the height of the battle, Jonathas is seriously wounded. When Saul finds him, he first turns against the guards accompanying his son and then, consumed with wrath, he attempts to assault David. As the Philistines claim victory, David rushes to Jonathas, who declares his love one last time and dies in his friend’s arms. David is overcome with despair. Mortally wounded, in vain Saul makes one last dive at him.
Achis arrives on the scene and pronounces David the new King of Israel. But in the midst of the victory celebrations, the victor is devastated: ‘I have lost all that I love/ All is lost for me’.