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María del Carmen Synopsis

Time: late 19th centuryPlace: a rural village in the Spanish province of Murcia

Pencho, a peasant farmer, and María are in love. Pencho had wounded the wealthy Javier in a fight over water rights and fled to Algeria. In order to save Pencho's life when he returns, María nurses Javier back to health, only to find that he has fallen in love with her too. The action of the opera begins with Pencho's return to the village. To Pencho's dismay, María tells him that she has agreed to marry Javier in order to save him from prosecution. Pencho protests that his honour cannot allow such a sacrifice. During a village fiesta there is a confrontation between Pencho and Javier and the two agree to fight a duel which becomes the focus of the third act.

As the duel approaches, Maria is distraught. While she still loves Pencho, she feels affection for Javier and does not wish to see him killed. Javier's father arrives and unsuccessfully tries to persuade Pencho to relinquish his claim on María. Javier appears and the duel is about to begin. However, tragedy is averted with the arrival of the local doctor, Don Fulgencio. He tells Domingo that Javier is already dying of tuberculosis and nothing can be done to save him. Javier then realizes the futility of the duel, reconciles with María and Pencho, and helps them to escape.