Music by Maurice Ravel
Libretto by Franc-Nohain
(translation by Xenia Klimenko and Natalia Mordashova)
Setting: the interior of Torquemada´s shop in Toledo in the 18th century
Ramiro the muleteer enters Torquemada the old watchmaker´s workshop. Ramiro has a problem; his grandfather clock, a family heirloom, has broken. The muleteer is relying on the experienced Torquemada´s skill. But the watchmaker cannot tend to customers – it is Thursday and he plans to check and regulate the city clock. As he must fly, Ramiro must wait; when he returns the old watchmaker will deal with the problem.
Torquemada´s young wife Concepcion is distressed at his words; Thursday is the only day of the week when, in the absence of the old man, her young bachelor lover Gonzalve can visit her.
The large Catalan clock in the shop prompts a lucky thought to Torquemada´s resourceful wife. Using Ramiro´s momentary distractedness, she pushes the bachelor into the large cavity of the clock and shuts the door firmly. Ramiro is requested to take the clock to Concepcion´s bedroom on the upper floor, but the weak Torquemada could never manage such a load. The visitor is glad to oblige the mistress of the house. With the heavy cargo on his shoulders he slowly mounts the stairs. Concepcion, pleased at her inventive plan, follows after him. Meanwhile, Don Inigo Gomez the banker appears in the workshop – he too has come to woo Concepcion.
Impatiently, he paces around the room. Hearing a man´s footsteps, the banker decides to hide in a large Catalan clock – an exact copy of that in the bedroom. With difficulty, Don Inigo squeezes inside and hurries to close the door.
Ramiro has been entrusted with the shop and he is glad to fulfil this request. Concepcion unexpectedly comes downstairs. She is disappointed with Gonzalve who has decided that rendezvous with women exist only for the recitation of pompous odes. Concepcion asks Ramiro to carry the load back to the shop as the clock is “going the wrong way”. Ramiro readily departs and Don Inigo can finally reveal himself to the lady of the house. Concepcion changes her plans.
The muleteer who has returned the unlucky Gonzalve to the shop quickly takes the other clock – the one with the banker – upstairs. It is heavier than the first, but the difference in weight means nothing to the powerful Ramiro.
Ramiro watches over the shop once again, and Gonzalve, having swapped places with the banker, is hidden in the narrow and stuffy cavity. The thwarted Concepcion once again descends from her rooms. The fat Inigo, who shut himself in in a moment of danger, is unable to get out without help. Concepcion is not strong enough. Perhaps Ramiro would be so kind as to take the useless Catalan clock out of her room. With complete submissiveness, the muleteer goes upstairs. His kindness and obliging nature win over, and his skill and outstanding physical strength astound Concepcion. Abandoning the bachelor and the banker to fate, she ultimately gives her preference to the modest village boy.
When he returns home, Torquemada finds the strange men in the clock. “Customers,” the startled old man´s wife explains, “wishing to buy the clock, the banker and the bachelor decided to examine the clock´s mechanism with their own eyes.” Don Inigo and Gonzalve have to loosen their purse strings. Torquemada, delighted at this spot of trade, is in fine spirits; Concepcion and Ramiro, having exchanged loving glances, are arranging future rendezvous.
World premiere: 19 May 1911, Opéra-Comique, Paris
Premiere of this production: 29 January 2010, Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall, St Peterburg
Running time: 47 minutes
The highlighting of performances by age represents recommendations.
This highlighting is being used in accordance with Federal Law N139-FZ dated 28 July 2012 “On the introduction of changes to the Federal Law ‘On the protection of children from information that may be harmful to their health and development’ and other legislative acts of the Russian Federation.”