Explore Maurice Ravel’s L’heure espagnole and L’enfant et les sortileges.
Clocks of various shapes and sizes stand around Torquemada’s shop, striking pleasantly. The muleteer Ramiro comes in to have his watch mended. Torquemada’s wife Concepcion enters to remind her husband it is time for him to regulate the municipal clocks. She complains that he has not placed one of the two grandfather clocks in her room, as requested. It’s too heavy to move, he responds. He asks Ramiro to await his return while he goes about his business.
Concepcion and Ramiro stand looking at one other. She hints about having the clock carried to her room. Nothing easier, says the muscular muleteer. As he takes it upstairs, Gonzalve is heard arriving.
Concepcion’s lover is a poet who waxes lyrical as they prepare to fling themselves into each other’s arms. On his reappearance she thanks Ramiro. To get rid of him again, she asks him to move the other clock upstairs, bringing the first one back. While he goes back upstairs to retrieve the first clock, Concepcion shoves Gonzalve into the second.
Suddenly the banker Don Inigo turns up, enquiring after Concepcion’s husband. It was he, he admits, who appointed Torquemada to the job of looking after the town’s clocks to get him out of the way. He tries to take Concepcion’s hand. The return of Ramiro with clock number 1 saves her. Ramiro picks up the second clock (containing Gonzalve) without difficulty. Concepcion is impressed and follows him upstairs.
Left alone, Inigo decides he would improve his image as a playful lover by hiding in the remaining clock. As he does so Ramiro reappears, charged by Concepcion with minding the shop. Suddenly she returns, complaining at the upstairs clock’s noisy innards. Would Ramiro kindly bring it back down? He instantly obliges.
Inigo declares his love to Concepcion. She begins to see his potential. Ramiro returns with the first clock (containing Gonzalve) and offers to take up the second (containing Inigo). Concepcion accepts his suggestion.
Opening the first clock, she tries to dismiss Gonzalve, who is reluctant to leave. She deserts him and he retires into his clock as Ramiro returns. He looks around the shop with admiration; if he were not a muleteer, he would like to be a clockmaker. As Concepcion returns, he divines her unhappiness with the second clock, and goes to retrieve it.
Left alone, Concepcion expresses dissatisfaction with both her lovers. As Ramiro returns yet again, she appreciates his physical strength. She sends him back to her room – this time without a clock to carry – then follows him.
Inigo and Gonzalve peep out of their hiding places, shutting themselves back in as Torquemada returns. He apologises for keeping them waiting. Noting their interest in the insides of the two clocks, he insists that they buy them.
Ramiro and Concepcion return and all join in the moral: in the pursuit of love, there comes a moment when it’s the muleteer’s turn.
L’enfant et les sortilèges
A Child is grumbling as he does his homework; he plots naughty deeds.
His Mother enters to check on him. She is cross that he has done nothing but spatter the carpet with ink; he responds by putting out his tongue. His punishment is dry bread and tea without sugar while he considers his behaviour.
Left alone, the angry Child gives way to naughtiness. He knocks the Teapot and Chinese Cup off the table. He pricks the caged Squirrel with his pen nib. He pulls the Tom Cat’s tail. He pokes the Fire and kicks the kettle over. He breaks the pendulum of the Grandfather Clock. He tears up his books. He vandalises the painted figures on the wallpaper.
As he prepares to fling himself into the Armchair, it hobbles away. Now the room comes alive. As the Child watches, the Armchair joins with the Louis XV Chair, both demanding their freedom from him. The Grandfather Clock complains at the damage done to him. The Teapot and Chinese Cup threaten revenge and dance off.
Feeling cold, the Child approaches the Fire, who tells him that he warms the good but burns the bad. The Child has offended the household gods that protect him. He begins to feel afraid.
The wallpaper figures, including the Shepherd and Shepherdess, mourn their destruction. The Child weeps. Out of one of his torn books rises the Princess, complaining that he has wrecked the story she was in; he is too weak to rescue her from her enchanter and she sinks underground. Arithmetic, a little old man, arrives and he and his Numbers bombard the Child with questions.
The Tom Cat, emerging from beneath the Armchair, spits at him and joins with the female Cat in drawing the Child into the garden. A Tree groans at the wound the Child inflicted on him the day before. Feeling pity, the Child lays his cheek against it. The garden begins to teem with life. The Dragonfly searches for his mate, whom the Child regretfully admits he caught and pinned to the wall. The Bat tells him he has killed the mother of his children. The Squirrel warns the Frog against the cage the Child will put him in. He realises that the animals love each other, but not him. He calls for his mother.
The Animals and Trees unite in a desire for revenge. They throw themselves upon him. A Squirrel is injured. The Child binds his paw with a ribbon. The animals notice that he, too, has been hurt. Concerned, they surround and tend him. They call out for his mother.
As a light goes on in the house, the animals withdraw, praising the Child’s newfound wisdom and kindness. Holding out his arms, the Child calls for his mother.
Words: George Hall