The musical is set in 1600 in the Harz Mountains of Germany. It incorporates elements from Goethe's Faust, Weber's Der Freischütz, and other well-known works.
Evil, wealthy Count Wolfenstein seeks to marry the lovely village girl, Amina. With the help of Amina's scheming foster mother Barbara, the Count arranges for Amina's fiancé, Rodolphe, an impoverished artist, to fall into the hands of Hertzog, an ancient, crook-backed master of black magic. Hertzog has made a pact with the Devil (Zamiel, "The Arch Fiend): he can live forever if he provides Zamiel with a fresh soul every New Year's Eve. As Rodolphe is led to this horrible fate, he escapes, discovers a buried treasure, and saves a dove. The dove magically turns out to be Stalacta, Fairy Queen of the Golden Realm, who is pretending to be a bird. The grateful Queen rescues Rodolphe by bringing him to fairyland and then reuniting him with his beloved Amina. The Count is defeated, demons drag the evil Hertzog into hell, and Rodolphe and Amina live happily ever after.