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Heure Espagnole L'Heure Espagnole; Spanish Time

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Maurice Ravel (born Ciboure, 7 March 1875; died Paris, 28 December 1937)

Franc-Nohain (Maurice-Etienne Legrand).

Adaptation of the librettist’s own comedy.

First performance: Paris (Opera-Comique), 19 May 1911.
First UK performance: London (Covent Garden), 24 July 1919.
First performance in Scotland: Glasgow (King’s Theatre), 29 May 1963.
Scottish Opera première: As above.

On the face of it, this piece seems to be a boulevard comedy or even broad farce such as might have been written by Feydeau. The Opera-Comique was run as a family theatre where nothing improper would be shown – a problem Bizet had encountered with Carmen some thirty years before. However the genius of Ravel for musical parody changes the emphasis and gives it a subtlety which the words on their own do not have. The conversational style and absence of arias was also a feature audiences were unaccustomed to, in spite of Debussy’s success with Pelleas et Melisande. Concepcion is a clever woman who controls events, though it must be said the four men are all to varying degrees lacking in sense. We do not quite know the extent to which her elderly husband is aware of what is happening, but he does not seem to be the jealous type. Meantime we see her introduce a new lover, discard an old one, and reject one who is of no interest, in spite of his wealth. It is a good-natured piece, completely lacking in malice.

Torquemada, a clockmaker (tenor)
Concepcion, his wife (soprano)
Gonzalve, a poet, Concepcion’s admirer (tenor)
Ramiro, a muleteer (baritone)
Don Inigo Gomez, a banker (bass)

Plot Summary
The opera is set in the city of Toledo, at the house and shop of Torquemada, a clockmaker. This is the day he spends every week adjusting all the municipal clocks. His wife, Concepcion, is accustomed to this situation, and has an arrangement to be visited by her lover, the poet Gonzalve. On this occasion, as Torquemada is about to leave, he is delayed by Ramiro, whose watch needs repaired. He is a handsome but slow-witted young man with no talent for small-talk, and when Torquemada leaves him to keep his wife company in his absence, he is glad to help when Concepcion asks him to carry one of two long-case clocks upstairs. This is a ruse to get him out of the way as Gonzalve is expected. When the poet arrives, Concepcion quickly realises she is bored by his constant waffle. As Ramiro comes down, she tells Gonzalve to hide in the second clock. She then tells Ramiro to swap the clocks over. Don Inigo, another admirer, arrives, and while Concepcion, Ramiro (and Gonzalve) are upstairs he hides in the first clock. After more clock carrying (Gonzalve back down, Don Inigo up, then down again), both clocks are back downstairs with a man in each of them. Concepcion has at last realised that Ramiro’s clock-carrying talents might have another use, and she invites him upstairs again “without a clock”. When Torquemada arrives home, the two admirers are easy victims for him and by the time Concepcion and Ramiro come down he has sold them the two clocks. Everyone is happy.

The Cast

 wife of Torquemada
Don Inigo Gomez
 a banker
 a poet
 a muleteer
 a clock-maker

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