A fable about the redemptive power of good actions and human endeavor, this holiday opera centers on the apocryphal life of Artaban, the Fourth of the Magi, who trades all his worldly goods for some precious jewels, with which he sets out to worship the Holy Infant. Along his journey, however, he encounters fellow humans in dire straits, to whom he distributes jewels. After a lifetime of doing good deeds and tending to the poor, he arrives in Jerusalem on the day of the crucifixion; still in possession of his last pearl. He intends to save Christ, but winds up using the jewel to free a young girl about to be sold into slavery. He dies having failed his Savior, but secure in the knowledge that he has served humanity instead.