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An Andalusian farmstead
Everyone is waiting for the bullfighter Rafael Ruiz—known as “The Macareno*”—to return from a major triumph in Madrid. Among them are Soleá and Frasquita, his fiancée and mother respectively, and Father Antón, the priest who christened him. Rafael and Soleá publicly declare their love to loud general approval. During the celebrations, a fortuneteller reads Rafael’s palm, and predicts his death in the bullring.
The festivities are interrupted when a bandit named Juanillo—known as the Wildcat—appears and declares that Soleá loves him and that he will kill anyone who comes between them. He then goes. The two men meet again and Juanillo challenges Rafael to a duel, but Soleá stands between them, telling the Wildcat that she will kill herself if he carries out this thereat. The bandit threatens the bullfighter again.
*The name allows two interpretations, referencing the Macarena neighborhood of Seville and also referring to Rafael’s good looks, meaning that his nickname could be translated his as “The Macarena Dreamboat.”
Scene One: Rafael’s house in Seville the following Sunday
The Macareno is making his final preparations and dressing for the bullfight, with friends and his bullfighting team. Soleá is heard singing outside and Rafael calls her in. They express their tender vows of love. Hormigon, the picador, praises the fighting quality of the bulls Rafael is to face, and the girl shares with him her fears about the bandit’s threats, and the gypsy woman’s warning. Surrounded by admiring supporters, the Macareno leaves for the bullring, after bidding farewell to his mother and Soleá.
Scene Two: the horse yard of the Seville bullring, with its chapel.
Rafael and Hormigón prepare for the fight. The matador is uneasy, but boasts that he will kill the six bulls plus the Wildcat if he must. The bullfight begins, and Soleá and Frasquita come into the yard. The latter is aware of the situation, but Hormigón locks them into the chapel. From there the women hear the bullfight taking place, and there is a loud scream from the crowd as the Macareno is fatally gored by the bull. He is carried to the infirmary.
Mourners pay tribute to the slain Rafael. Juanillo takes Soleá with him back to his mountain lair. The townspeople follow him there; Juanillo confronts them, then pulls out a knife and asks one of them to kill him. None of them dares to do so. Guards are heard approaching to arrest Juanillo, who begs his comrade Pezuño to shoot him. He does so, and Juanillo falls to the ground in a final embrace with Soleá.
Juanillo is in a crazed rage, standing at bay before Hormigón and the farm workers who have come to arrest him. He throws his knife to them, daring them to kill him. As a posse of security guards who were pursuing him approach the cave, the bandit has his companion Pezuño shoot him in the heart. The Wildcat dies embracing Soleá’s body.—Synopsis courtesy of the Teatro de la Zarzuela, Madrid.