A Spanish Hour - Ravel's L'heure espagnole

SmallStages Tour Autumn 2018


Autumn 2018 sees MWO back on the road with the company’s second SmallStages tour, Ravel’s exhilarating one-act bedroom farce, A Spanish Hour (L’heure espagnole). We’re returning to some favourite spots from our tour of Walton’s The Bear in 2017, as well as a host of new places we’re longing to explore. 

First performed in Paris in 1911, L’heure espagnole is set in a clock shop in Toledo, central Spain. It follows the fortunes of Torquemada, the hardworking clockmaker, as, during the course of one hot afternoon, his young wife Concepción negotiates her way through her collection of ridiculous lovers. Ravel’s music is bursting with hummable melodies, lively habanera dances and other Spanish folk song elements to get audiences buzzing. 

This is opera for everyone – featuring an outstanding cast of five young singers as well as four brilliant musicians, performing a new English translation by our Artistic Director Richard Studer and a new arrangement of Ravel’s exotic score created by our Music Director Jonathan Lyness.

And in the second half of the evening, our musicians and singers will present an eclectic and entertaining taste of Spain – with some old favourites and new delights to enjoy.


Torquemada’s Clock Shop – Toledo, Spain

It is almost the Spanish hour, the one hour of the week when Concepcion entertains her lovers…

The muleteer Ramiro enters Torquemada’s shop to have his watch mended. They are interrupted by Concepcion who berates her husband for being late for work and failing to place a clock in her bedroom. Complaining that they are too heavy to move, Torquemada leaves and asks Ramiro to wait. Concepcion asks the muscular Ramiro to carry a clock to her room and he departs with the clock just as the poet Gonzalve arrives. The lovers are interrupted by the return of Ramiro. Feigning a mistake Concepcion asks Ramiro to bring the clock back and then carry the second clock upstairs.

As Ramiro disappears, Concepcion hides Gonzalve in the first clock prior to the arrival of her second lover, the banker Don Inigo Gomez. The return of Ramiro saves her from Inigo’s pomposity; Ramiro picks up the original clock (now containing Gonzalve) and carries it upstairs. Concepcion makes her excuses to Inigo and follows Ramiro. Left alone Inigo decides to become a more playful lover and hides in the second clock. Ramiro reappears having been instructed to mind the shop. Concepcion returns complaining about the clock in her bedroom and asks Ramiro to bring it back down for her.

Alone together, Inigo reveals himself and declares his love for Concepcion but is again interrupted by Ramiro. Concepcion asks Ramiro to take the second clock (containing Inigo) upstairs. She then attempts but fails to get rid of the poetic Gonzalve and leaves. Ramiro returns and muses that he too should like to be a clockmaker with Concepcion as his wife. Concepcion returns and asks him to remove the clock from her bedroom (containing Inigo). She is now transfixed by the muleteer’s strength and, on his return, orders him back to her bedroom (clockless!) and then follows him…

The two men (Gonzalve and Inigo) peep out of their clocks just as Torquemada returns. He apologises for keeping them waiting and, believing them to be customers, persuades the jilted lovers to buy the clocks. Concepcion and Ramiro return and all join in the moral: in the pursuit of love there comes a moment when the muleteer has his turn…


Torquemada: Peter Van Hulle
Concepción: Catherine Backhouse
Gonzalve: Anthony Flaum
Ramiro: Nicholas Morton
Don Inigo Gomez: Matthew Buswell

Violin – Naomi Rump/Edward McCullagh
Harp – Elfair Grug Dyer
Bassoon – Alexandra Callanan
Piano – Jonathan Lyness

Duration: 1 hour 45 minutes

Music: Maurice Ravel
Jonathan Lyness
Richard Studer

Music Director: Jonathan Lyness
Director/Designer: Richard Studer


Our Second Half Tapas Menu

Alan Ridout: Ferdinand the Bull
Peter Van Hulle (narrator), Naomi Rump (violin)

Manuel de Falla: Nana, No. 5 from Siete Canciones Populares Españolas
Catherine Backhouse (mezzo)

Pablo Sorozábal: No puede ser
Anthony Flaum (tenor)

Georges Bizet: Seguidilla, from Carmen
Catherine Backhouse (mezzo)

Georges Bizet: Toreador Song, from Carmen
Nicholas Morton (baritone), Full Company

Frederico García Lorca: El Cafe de Chinitas, No. 7 from Trece Canciones Españolas Antiguas
Full Company

Agustín Lara: Granada
Anthony Flaum (tenor), Peter Van Hulle (tenor)


Supported by ACW Lottery Fund, Garfield Weston Trust, Hanfod Cymru, Gwendoline & Margaret Davies Charity and Nidec Control Techniques.

Creative Team

Richard Studer


Jonathan Lyness

Music Director


Matthew Buswell

Don Inigo Gomez

Peter Van Hulle



Naomi Rump

Violin (9 – 24 Nov)

Edward McCullagh

Violin (29 Nov – 7 Dec)