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The Doctor of Alcantara

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The Doctor of Alcantara

by Benjamin Wolfe

Genre: Operetta
Format of Original Source: Plot summary
Recommended Adaptation Length: Two Hours

Candidate for Adaptation? Promising


The first act of this operetta opens with a dainty serenade by Carlos, son of Señor Balthazar, to Señorita Isabella, daughter of Dr. Paracelsus, with whom he is in love. Isabella, who is intended for another by her mother, Donna Lucrezia, prefers this unknown serenader. As the song closes, Isabella, Lucrezia, and even the maid Inez claim it as a compliment, and quarrel over it in an effective buffo trio, “You Saucy Jade.” Three songs follow this number,–“Beneath the Gloomy Convent Wall,” “When a Lover is Poor,” and “There was a Knight, as I’ve been told,” in which the three women recite their unfortunate love affairs. As their songs close, the doctor enters with the announcement that a basket has arrived, ostensibly for Inez. The curious Lucrezia looks into it, and finds Carlos, who immediately jumps out and sings a passionate love-song, “I love, I love,” which the infatuated Lucrezia takes to herself. The love scene is interrupted by a sudden noise, and in alarm she hurries Carlos back into the basket and flies. Carlos in the mean time gets out again and fills it with books. The doctor and Inez enter, and to conceal the receipt of the basket from Lucrezia, as she might be angry with the maid, they remove it to a balcony, whence by accident it tumbles into the river. Their terror when they learn that a man was concealed in it makes an amusing scene, and this is heightened by the entrance of the Alguazil, who announces himself in a pompous bass song, “I’m Don Hypolito Lopez Pomposo,” and inquires into the supposed murder.


Accidental murder, detectives, a powerful narcotic drug, hiding a corpse under its father’s bed…perhaps you could fashion a Fargo/Cohn Brothers kind of musical out of these elements.  The operetta treats them all rather lightly (it’s not a real corpse), but with a different kind of tone, and with truly dangerous Bad Guys, there might be something wonderful lurking here.


A word of caution: This plot summary was written by 19th-century literary critic George Upton, who often mixes personal opinion with summation. You would be advised to consult the original source material, if the general plot appeals to you.


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