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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 fortune teller reads Rafael’s palm, and predicts his death in the bullring.
The festivities are interrupted when a bandit named Juanillo—known as "The Wildcat"—declares that Soleá loves him and that he will kill anyone who comes between them. He then goes. When Soleá's two rivals meet again, Juanillo challenges Rafael to a duel, but Soleá stands between them, telling the Wildcat that she will kill herself if he carries out this threat. 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 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. Hormigón, the picador, praises the fighting quality of the bulls Rafael is about to face, and the girl shares with him her fears about the bandit’s threats and the fortune teller’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. Fearing that the presence of Soleá and Frasquita will distract Rafael, Hormigón locks the two women inside the chapel. From there the women listen to the bullfight taking place. There is a loud scream from the crowd as the Macareno is fatally gored by the bull. Soleá faints when she sees Rafael's body.
Mourners pay tribute to Rafael. Juanillo forces Soleá to go with him back to his mountain lair. The townspeople follow them; Juanillo confronts Hormigón and the others, then pulls out a knife and asks one of them to kill him. No one moves. Guards are heard approaching to arrest Juanillo, who begs his comrade Pezuño to shoot him through the heart. As Pezuño does so, Soleá throws herself in front of Juanillo. The bullet kills both of them, and they fall to the ground in a final embrace.
—Synopsis courtesy of the Teatro de la Zarzuela, Madrid.