The opera is set in present-day Tepoztlán, an actual village near Mexico City known for its curanderos/curanderas, practitioners of folk magic.
Scene One: It is afternoon in the outdoor lobby of the fictitious Hotel Tepoztecatl, named for the Aztec god of the alcoholic drink, pulque. The elderly and distinguished General Godofredo de la Barca (bass) enters, accompanied by his pretty young nurse, Dionisia (mezzo-soprano). Ramón (baritone), proprietor of the hotel, has just given an annual fiesta in honor of the famous General de la Barca.
All three, especially the guest of honor, are happily tipsy, and they join in a three-person conga line. General de la Barca expresses his gratitude to Ramón for the tribute and to Dionisia for her devoted care. La Curandera (contralto) enters, inquiring about the General’s health and about his American grand-nephew, Alberto, whom the General has not seen since the funeral of his beloved wife, Estela, two years ago.
When the General and Dionisia leave, Ramón asks la Curandera about the potion she has given him to bring more lucrative tourist business to his hotel. La Curandera scoffs at his doubts and assures him of the power of her magic.
Scene Two: Later that same day, the General’s grand-nephew, Alberto (tenor), and his fiancée, Alba (soprano), count their luggage in an American airport, on their way to pay “Uncle Godo” a surprise visit. Alberto warmly recounts his childhood with “tio Godo” and “tia Estela” in Mexico, and the couple agree to name their first child “Godofredo,” after Alberto’s celebrated, and now only living, relative. Alberto leaves for a moment to get a luggage tag. While he is gone, the cell phone in his bag rings. Alba answers and hears a woman’s voice asking in Spanish for Alberto. Alba, not understanding the language, hangs up. When Alberto returns, Alba confronts him as to the woman’s identity, but he brushes off her question and hurries her onto their flight.
Scene Three: That evening in Tepoztlán, on the patio of General de la Barca’s hacienda, the General repairs his deceased wife’s silver watch and muses on the passing of time. Dionisia enters, brightly, bringing him a delicious dinner. She jokes, teases and dances with him. Soon he cheers up and observes, as she leaves, that “Time is the cure!”
Scene Four: The next morning, Alberto and Alba arrive at the Hotel Tepoztecatl and check in with Ramón. Alba, obviously upset, again questions Alberto about the suspicious female caller with the “beautiful voice.” Ramón tries, in vain, to follow their heated argument, as Alba presses Alberto for the woman’s name and Alberto persists in his innocence. Alberto further enrages Alba by repeatedly correcting her faulty Spanish. When Alba storms off to the room, Ramón tries to console Alberto. Alberto dejectedly calls Dionisia to arrange the surprise visit, sans fiancée, with his uncle. He tells Dionisia of his misunderstanding with Alba, and Dionisia suggests that Alberto send Alba to la Curandera for a dose of her magic. Dionisia tells Alberto that she will bring his uncle to meet him at la Curandera’s house. Ramón reluctantly promises Alberto that he will take Alba for her visit, and he calls la Curandera to make an appointment.
Scene Five (Finale) is set in la Curandera’s house, where the interior and exterior are both clearly visible. Inside, la Curandera gleefully awaits her new American client. Ramón brings Alba to the door and convinces her to ring the bells. Before Alba can ring them, the bells ring by themselves, and la Curandera invites her inside. Alba tells la Curandera she doesn’t think she can help her. La Curandera roughly answers that, if Alba doesn’t believe that magic can help her, then she should leave. Taken aback, Alba decides to stay, and she accepts la Curandera’s offer of tea. Instead of serving Alba tea to drink, however, la Curandera throws tea leaves over Alba’s head “to purify the air.” Little by little, La Curandera presses Alba to reveal her suspicions about the mysterious voice of the “other woman” on the telephone. When la Curandera cleverly pretends to agree with Alba about Alberto’s philandering ways, Alba abruptly changes her attitude and begins, instead, to defend Alberto and to affirm her trust and love for him.
Alberto approaches the house in the midst of the proceedings, and throughout the scene, Alberto and Ramón listen outside la Curandera’s door. They comment and speculate nervously on the action inside as la Curandera performs a series of intense and exotic incantations, waving herbs, lighting candles, giving Alba a flower to hold and taking her pulse (to “listen” to her “blood”), eventually causing Alba to swoon. When General de la Barca and Dionisia arrive, uncle and nephew are joyously reunited. Alberto and Dionisia finally meet in person, and Alberto discovers that Dionisia was the mysterious female caller. All anxiously await the outcome of Alba’s continuing encounter with la Curandera. The scene culminates as Alba crushes the flower, which, la Curandera declares, has absorbed all of Alba’s jealous suspicions. At the moment Alba emerges, however, she sees Alberto kissing Dionisia, and she immediately assumes the worst. The old argument erupts anew. Eventually, however, Alba learns that Dionisia is the General’s nurse and that she had called Alberto to invite him to visit his uncle, with Alberto not knowing who she was and with Dionisia not knowing that he was already on his way. With everything understood, Alberto is finally able to present his fiancée to his beloved uncle. Ramón, encouraged by the General and Dionisia, renews his hope for la Curandera’s promise of a more prosperous life, and Alba and Alberto again declare their love for each other. La Curandera comes out to join the happy scene. She meets Alberto and receives his thanks, and, in a joyous finale, everyone praises la Curandera for her magic and her wisdom. There is general rejoicing as the curtain falls.
OPERA America/Opera.ca Grants Awarded
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|GRANT NAME||YEAR||The Opera Fund: Audience Development ||2007||The Opera Fund: Repertoire Development||2006||The Opera Fund: Audience Development ||2005||
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Approximate Runtime (hh:mm)
Number of Acts
Vocal & Musical Forces
Baritone, Bass, Contralto, Mezzo-Soprano, Soprano, Tenor; 8 players, No chorus.
La Curandera--Mezzo-soprano, General Godofredo de la Barca--Bass, Ramon--Baritone, Alberto--Tenor, Alba--Soprano, Dionisia--Mezzo-soprano/soprano
Leslie Remert-Soichs in the leading role