Venice, Italy, early 15th century

Beautiful Maddalena is waiting at home for her husband, Genaro the artist, to return. Boats with loving couples are passing by under the setting sun, a chorus of gondoliers is heard from afar. One of the boats carries Maddalena’s friends Gemma and Romeo. They invite her to join them, but she refuses.

Reunited, Maddalena and Genaro burst into a passionate love duet interrupted by Genaro’s friend, Stegno the alchemist. Maddalena hides behind a curtain as he enters. Stegno confides to his friend that he has fallen in love with an unknown beauty who wouldn’t reveal her identity to him. Stegno is tormented by jealousy and suspicions.

The situation is resolved by a sudden storm. A blast of wind withdraws the curtain, a lightning flashes on Maddalena, and Stegno recognizes his mysterious seductress in her. Both men are eager to avenge the double betrayal, but Maddalena tricks them into fighting one another. The rivals die, but the tragedy seems to have no effect on its culprit: ‘And which one did you love, Maddalena? Perhaps I loved neither…’ Coming to her senses, she leans out of the window and calls for help: ‘Help!.. Murder! My Genaro! There was a quarrel! The stranger killed Genaro!’


Toledo, Spain, 18th century

Ramiro, a muleteer, comes to Torquemada’s clock shop to have his watch fixed. Concepción, Torquemada’s wife, reminds her husband that it’s time he went to maintain the town clock. Torquemada leaves.

Gonsalve, a young poet, comes to visit Concepción. She wants to be left alone with him and asks Ramiro to bring a clock to her bedroom, which Torquemada wouldn’t do for her due to his lack of physical strength. The muleteer takes the clock upstairs, while the enamoured Gonzalve recites poetry to Concepción.

Ramiro returns. Concepción tells him that she has changed her mind and wants another clock for her bedroom. Ramiro leaves to fetch the first one. Concepción hides Gonzalve inside a clock. Suddenly another admirer arrives, Don Iñigo Gomez, a banker. Iñigo advances Concepción but is shooed by Ramiro who has brought the first clock back. Concepción asks Ramiro to replace it with the one that houses Gonzalve and accompanies him to control the work of the clock. Alone, Don Iñigo hides inside a clock. Ramiro comes downstairs to look after the shop.

Soon Concepción returns too, disappointed by Gonzalve. She complains that the sound of the clock annoys her and asks Ramiro to bring it back downstairs. Ramiro leaves for her bedroom again. Meanwhile Don Iñigo flirts with the beautiful clockmakeress from inside the clock. Ramiro returns with the clock and takes the one with Don Iñigo upstairs. Gonzalve resumes reciting poetry. Sick and tired of both her admirers, Concepción mourns her wasted time: the only hour of her freedom flees, and she is still a faithful wife! She asks Ramiro to fetch Don Iñigo’s clock back and then takes the strong and obedient muleteer to her bedroom. Gonzalve leaves his clock, while Don Iñigo is stuck in his. Torquemada returns and pretends to take his wife’s rejected lovers for customers. Both of them have to play along and buy a clock each. Concepción and Ramiro return to the shop. In the end all the characters address the audience with a merry insight.

Translated by Kay Baburina