The opera opens with an introduction in which the chorus sings Valle's poem 'Rosa de Llamas' –from his book El Pasajero–, a metaphor of decadence, swathed in a mist of lyricism that is highly characteristic of the author.
The end of Scene 1 was the ideal place for a popular song because the patrons of the bar are chatting and making a noise. Valle-Inclán describes this happening at various points. So I thought it would be opportune to include a song I entitled “Golondrongo”, because of the repetition in the ritornello. It comes from the tonadilla for three voices from Blas Laserna's El Cordero perdido. It was written in 1781 and I found it in Felip Pedrell's Cancionero musical popular español. It is appropriate to this dramatic situation and reminds us of the performances that were given in yards and squares in the 17th and 18th centuries. I entirely reharmonized the song and added a few instrumental interludes while the customers hold clearly comical conversations with one another. This song rounds off the preparations for the rondalla, which have been taking place throughout the scene.
The arrival of the Blind Man (Scene 2), with his gloomy but ironical air, breaks the apparent of tranquillity of the bar. He has a powerful, dramatic voice and promptly launches into two almost consecutive monologues. The first is a popular copla written and turned into verse by Valle-Inclán himself. Though costumista in tone, it has a totally disrespectful, roguish air about it. Each stanza from the Blind Man is matched by a more bucolic-style response from his boy. The Blind Man's second monologue operates as a deliberately abstruse prophecy, rife with speculations about betrayal, death and desolation. At this point I introduced a musical dialogue between the chorus and the Blind Man (let me recall that the chorus is not visible on stage). I gave the sentences strong symbolic overtones, which help to keep the prophecy in a “musical retina” which will later be closed. The Blind Man's second monologue is written to an old Spanish rhythm known as tientos, which is slow, slightly ceremonious, unsettling and in four-time. It always follows a pattern that comes from the dance. It is a slower variant of the so-called flamenco tangos, which arose out of a blend between autochthonous Iberian rhythms and rhythms from the Caribbean.
Once the Blind Man has been driven away, the work focuses on the triangle of main characters (Scene 3). El Jándalo arrives with his boastful, arrogant air, like an archetypal inhabitant of the Río Plata region. He introduces himself as a gentleman who has visited every possible corner of the earth and starts flirting with La Pepona as soon as he meets her. Valle-Inclán describes El Jándalo in the following terms: “sobre un caballo tordillo, con jaeces gauchos (…), altas botas con sonoras espuelas. Se apea con fantasía de valentón.” (riding a piebald horse, with gaucho-type harness(…), tall boots with clinking spurs. He dismounts with swaggering air). This description prompted me to introduce El Jándalo to a farruca rhythm (type of flamenco), with two beats and a highly characteristic stress pattern (every eight quavers). The animal magnetism between El Jándalo and La Pepona is instantaneous. The customers notice it and sing the last lines of the poem "Rosa de Túrbulos", which expresses a whole range of lyrical thoughts about femininity.
Thus at the end of Scene 3, the work enters in medias res. El Jándalo and Don Igi, standing face to face, have an altercation in which the reason for the former's visit is made clear: he has come to blackmail Don Igi over an obscure episode of his life in Latin America. Don Igi reacts histrionically while El Jándalo and the customers leave “singing a village mazurka”. This annotation, which is by Valle, gives me an opportunity to resort to folklore once more by adapting an old Castilian song with words that provide an apt commentary on the situation:
A los árboles altos / los lleva el viento
(Tall trees / are tossed by the wind / and lovers / by thoughts. / Thoughts, ah my life, thoughts. // A heart that is adverse / to pain and suffering / must go through life / free of love. / Free of love, ah my life, free of love.)
The approval of the plan leads into the dramatic climax (Scene 5), which is a veritable intermingling of different forms of depravation. In the middle La Pepona is digging the grave for the future corpse; El Jándalo and the rondalla are approaching the bar, singing popular songs by Valle-Inclán off-stage. Superimposed on all this we hear the chorus intermittently singing lines marked by a gloomy, lyrical unreality from the poem "La Rosa del Reloj".
At this point Valle-Inclán sets off a precipitato (Scenes 6, 7 and 8). All three scenes are marked by a frenzied rhythm and the crescendo of Don Igi's madness and El Jándalo's caustic attitude. The opera ends (Scene 9) with a solo by La Pepona, who sings lines from the poem "Vista madrileña", pianissimo, over the voices of the chorus. She is expressing a sort of macabre nostalgia, for she was sexually attracted by El Jándalo, not Don Igi. The words of Don Igi, as he sinks into madness and solitude, bring the opera to a close.