The opera is Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, a tragedy in which an unfortunate heroine is driven mad because she’s forced to marry the wrong man. Perhaps not the best choice for Emma…
Emma and Charles take a stroll before the opera, and when they finally settle down in their seats, Emma feels satisfied for the first time in a long while. Waiting for the show to start, she admires her fellow audience-members.
The opera immediately transports Emma back to the romantic novels of Sir Walter Scott she enjoyed as a girl (the opera was based upon book called The Bride of Lammermoor by Scott). She feels the music reverberate in her soul – it sounds like the old Emma is back.
The famous tenor recommended by Homais, Edgar Lagardy, makes a dramatic entrance onstage. Emma is struck by his appearance, and the whole audience falls for him.
Emma sees her own story in the narrative that unfolds before her. She thinks that nobody has ever loved her the way that the hero and heroine love each other.
Charles doesn’t really get what’s going on, and he keeps bugging Emma with questions. She’s not amused.
A wedding scene unfolds on stage, and Emma thinks of her own wedding – she wishes that she, like the opera’s heroine, had resisted and not married Charles.
As things get more and more dramatic onstage, they also get more and more dramatic in Emma’s mind. She imagines what it would be like to be the lover of Lagardy, the tenor. She is swept up in the fantasy of running away with the singer across Europe when the curtain falls; it’s intermission.
Charles runs off clumsily to get Emma something to drink. On his way back, he manages to spill the drink on a very upset lady, but makes it back to Emma somehow.
Charles has big news. While he was away, he saw someone we haven’t encountered for a while: Léon Dupuis.
Before Charles even finishes telling Emma about his encounter, Léon himself shows up in their box. He and Emma shake hands and start catching up; just then, Act III of the opera begins.
Emma is no longer interested in the drama onstage, now that there’s some drama sitting right next to her. All of her pre-Rodolphe feelings start to return.
Léon obviously feels something, too – he suggests that they leave the theatre and go elsewhere to talk. Charles, who’s actually kind of into the opera now, doesn’t want to go, but Emma insists.
At a café, they eat ice cream and make small talk. Léon attempts to show off by discussing music – he claims that Lagardy isn’t all he’s cracked up to be.
Charles, who’s still bummed about missing the end of the performance, suggests that perhaps Emma might like to stay in Rouen by herself for a couple of days and see the opera again. Léon, of course, encourages this.
Emma demurely makes no promises – she smiles oddly, knowing that something’s up with Léon. She and Charles will decide overnight what she should do.
The old friends part ways, with the clerk promising to visit Yonville soon.