René Count of Luxemburg is ruined. He has spent the whole of his fortune which has not been confiscated. As Paris celebrates the carnival season, dreams and reality become blurred in his mind.
Armand Brissard is looking for a “Venus” – to pose for him as a model and to share his life, but his lover Juliette is keeping him waiting. These two Bohemians, with whom René has found a place to stay, have fallen on equally hard times: they can barely live off Armand’s paintings and Juliette is also struggling in her career as a singer. Though their dream of a better life remains no more than wishful thinking, they refuse to be downhearted and throw a party for their friends. When René returns home he cheerfully throws the last of his money into the kitty.
Suddenly an unexpected visitor arrives: Prince Basil Basilowitsch, a Russian mafia millionaire, accompanied by his bodyguards Mentschikoff, Pawlowitsch and Pélégrin. Basil has fallen in love with Angèle Didier, a famous star of the Paris Opera. Having already paid for her training as a singer at the conservatoire, he now wants to marry her. However, Angèle is a commoner. In order to remove this obstacle from his path Basil has devised a scheme: he will pay René 500.000 Francs to marry Angèle incognito so that she will have a title, and then divorce her three months later. René agrees to the deal.
Basil arranges an anonymous wedding between René and Angèle. However, both Angèle and René feel an attraction to their mysterious partner. All René is left with is the image of a tender hand, the fragrance of the perfume Trefle Incarnat and
the stranger’s name: Angèle. René still doesn’t quite know what has happened to him and promptly squanders his latest fortune among his friends.
ACT I I
Angèle, surrounded by her adoring fans, celebrates her farewell to the opera stage. Only one thing irritates her: a man sitting in one of the loges has completely captivated her.
René, now calling himself “Baron von Reval” in order to maintain his promised anonymity, is desperate to meet Angèle Didier and tries to get back stage along with Armand. He has spent weeks searching for the woman he married. He is fascinated by the singer, whose name is Angèle, just like the woman he is looking for, and made eye contact with her during the performance – a moment which Angèle too is unable to forget.
Armand, meanwhile, is looking for Juliette, who studied together with Angèle at the conservatoire and is now working for her. However, the stage doorkeeper is a complete dragon. While he is quite happy to let Basil and his bodyguards enter without
any difficulty, René and Armand have to trick him in order to get inside the opera house. They then have to battle their way through convoluted passageways full of singers, dancers and other theatre folk in order to find Angèle’s dressing room.
René declares his love to a puzzled Angèle, who attempts to bring them both down to earth by telling him she is already married. Meanwhile Mentschikoff, Pawlowitsch and Pélégrin have realised that they have failed to guard Angèle’s dressing room effectively. To avoid discovery, René disguises himself as Juliette, fooling Armand, who nevertheless eventually succeeds in winning over the real Juliette.
When Basil attempts to visit Angèle, he finds the doors locked. Mentschikoff, Pawlowitsch and Pélégrin force their way into her dressing room. When Angèle asks Basil what the Count she married looks like and the Prince describes René as extremely ugly, René is so angry he can no longer conceal himself. Basil is horrified to find René with Angèle and tries to get rid of him by
telling him he is ill, but ultimately Basil is the one left in need of a doctor.
Left behind by himself in Angèle’s dressing room, René becomes ever more certain that she is the woman he’s looking for: a glove which perfectly fits the delicate hand he remembers so well, and here too the fragrance of Trefle Incarnat …
Basil regains consciousness and tries to impress the young performers, including Juliette. He wants to announce his engagement to Angèle today and has hired a Russian ballet troupe specially for the occasion. However, Armand has discovered that Angèle is already married and forces Basil to reveal the details of the fake wedding he arranged. The others are outraged. Angèle expresses her contempt for the stranger who agreed to such a deal. Then René reveals his true identity
and accuses Angèle of abusing his noble title in order to become a Princess. Basil still remains confident of winning Angèle in the end as he has René’s word of honour.
ACT I I I
The manager of the hotel in which Basil is staying complains about the shortage of staff in his establishment, where a very special guest has taken up residence: the Russian Countess Stasa Kokozowa. She is looking for Basil.
At the same time Juliette and Armand, who are planning to marry the next day, are looking for somewhere to stay. And Angèle and René, who have spent the evening aimlessly wandering through the city, also arrive in time for Countess Kokozowa to tell them that Basil has been betrothed to her for many years. Now events take an unexpected turn …