It’s 482 BC in Ancient Persia. King Ahasuerus, ruler of the vast Persian Empire, throws a grand party in his glorious palace in Shushan. Desiring to show off the beauty of his Queen before all the nobles, princes and officials, the King commands his seven eunuchs to bring Queen Vashti to the party. But she refuses to come! Refuses to obey the King’s command! What shall be done? The King’s wise men come up with a plan. Give Vashti’s royal position to another who is better than she. Search the Kingdom! Bring the most beautiful virgins! The King will find a new Queen.
In Shushan, there is a kind-hearted Jewish man named Mordecai whose forefathers had been carried away captive from Jerusalem. He was raising his uncle’s daughter, Esther, for she was an orphan. The young Jewish maiden was lovely and beautiful to behold. Mordecai gets a brilliant idea! He will bring Esther to the Palace. Perhaps the King will choose her to be the new Queen! Upon dropping Esther off at the Palace, Mordecai advises her: “Don’t tell them you’re related to me, and don’t tell them you’re Jewish!”
Miracle of miracles, among all the beautiful virgins, the King chooses Esther to be his Queen!
One day while Mordecai was sitting by the Palace gate, two doorkeepers, furious with the King, thinking they are alone, devise a plan to kill the King. Mordecai, overhearing them, tells Queen Esther of their nefarious scheme and the King’s life is saved.
Haman, the man with the little square mustache, is the villain in our story. One day, the King decides to promote Haman above all the other princes in the Persian Empire, and commands that everyone bow down and pay homage to him. But Mordecai refuses to bow down, because he is Jewish and only bows down to God. So Haman is filled with wrath against Mordecai, and convinces the King to issue an outrageously cruel decree that all the Jewish people in the Persian Empire should be killed!
When Mordecai sees the decree, he rips his clothes, puts on sackcloth and ashes and cries with a loud bitter cry. Esther sends her servant, Hatach, to find out why Mordecai is in such terrible distress. Hatach informs the Queen that a decree has been issued that all the Jewish people will be destroyed! And Mordecai wants her to go to the King and plead for her people.
But anyone who goes to the King uninvited must be killed unless he raises the golden scepter. Esther could lose her life!
Mordecai tells Esther in a beautiful aria, “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the King’s palace anymore than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.”
What is Esther to do? Risk her life by going to the King uninvited? But if she doesn’t do something, she will be killed along with all of the Jewish people.
Esther replies in a gorgeous aria, “Dearest Cousin Mordecai, go and tell my Jewish family they must fast and pray for three whole days and nights for me, I beg you. Then I’ll go before the King. If he’ll raise his golden scepter, then I’ll live to see another day, but if he won’t, I’ll perish. If I perish, I will perish.”
So Esther bravely enters the King’s Palace, and when he sees her, he’s delighted and extends the golden scepter!
The King asks, “What do you wish, my Queen? What is your request? I’ll give you anything, up to half my kingdom.”
Esther simply invites the King and Haman to a banquet that she will prepare for them. Of course they will attend!
Haman leaves the Palace with a joyful heart, but when he sees Mordecai, who still refuses to bow, he is enraged. At home, Haman brags to his wife and friends that the Queen invited only him to a banquet with the King. But all of this good fortune means nothing to Haman so long as Mordecai won’t pay homage to him.
Zeresh, Haman’s wife, cheers him up with her own sinister plan, and says, “Build a gallows 50 cubits high, and in the morning, suggest to the King that Mordecai be hanged on it. Then go happily to Esther’s banquet!”
That night, the King could not sleep. “Bring me the Book of the Chronicles. That ought to put me to sleep!” When he reads how Mordecai revealed the doorkeepers’ plot to kill him, he decides to do something to reward Mordecai.
Just at that moment, Haman enters, and the King asks, “What shall be done for that man whom the King delights to honor?”
Haman thinks the King wants to honor him, and comes up with a list of grandiose things to do. And the King says, “Excellent! Do everything you have said for Mordecai the Jew.”
Humiliated, Haman returns home and tells Zeresh how the King ordered him to honor Mordecai. Zeresh says, “Uh-oh.” Haman says, “What?” And Zeresh sings the show-stopper, “Did I not tell you if that Mordecai before whom you have begun to fall is of Jewish descent, dear, you would not prevail but were doomed to fail like a thistle in the autumn wind, and would surely fall like a tottering wall before him, dear.”
It’s time for the big showdown at Esther’s banquet. Haman, the King and all the servants are present. The King asks, “What is it you wish to tell me?” Not only does the King discover that his Queen is Jewish, he finds out that she and all her people are going to be killed!
Outraged, the King asks, “Who is he, and where is he who would dare presume in his heart to do such a thing?” And the whole drama unfolds in a magnificent aria. Esther sings, “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman!” So the King commands that Haman be hanged on the gallows instead of Mordecai.
The King issues a new decree to reverse the scheme of Haman. Esther saves the Jewish people!
The dazzlingly beautiful finale is a joyful celebration, a triumphant hope for a life of freedom and peace. “From out of darkness, victory!”