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A tribute to Opera!
"L'état, c'est moi."
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Vancouver
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Roger's Reviews: check out my reviews page, right here on BGG!
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I can't say that I grew up with a musical background. I listened to pretty much whatever my friends did or what was on the radio, and my musical tastes were mostly formed through that.

Like many people, I didn't really know what opera was, and figured all the jokes about it were true. Then I took a graduate level course on opera in the fall of 2005 and I've been hooked ever since.

I find opera compelling because it combines many of the things I love - great music, great singing, the full splendour of a theatrical stage performance, and wonderful stories.

So in the spirit of sharing, here's a geeklist devoted to one of the coolest performing arts - opera!

According to Opera America, the operas listed below are the most performed operas in North America.

The descriptions of the operas are lifted from All About Opera.
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26. Board Game: Troia [Average Rating:5.58 Overall Rank:8461]
Sean Roberts
United States
Lead
South Dakota
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Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell

A great baroque opera that tells the story of Aeneas' fateful visit to Carthage after the fall of Troy. Short and sweet, my favorite opera.



Only Cyborgs are able to resist bursting into tears during this scene. This probably would have been a more effective empathy test in Blade Runner than what they were using.
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27. Board Game: Othello [Average Rating:6.07 Overall Rank:1992]
Green Knight Games
United Kingdom
Cheltenham
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Otello by Giuseppe Verdi

An obvious game connection with this one, based on Shakepeare's powerful study of jealousy. Also a great opera and one of my favourites. Here's Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

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28. Board Game: Spades [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:900]
david mackay
United Kingdom
WARWICK
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The Queen of Spades (1890)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

With such a title and with a plot centred around the game of Faro,this could be thought of as very much a gamer's opera. Tchaikovsky wrote
eleven operas, two of them: TQoS and Eugene Oniegin are generally regarded as masterpieces of the art. I heard a Kirov Opera concert version of the neglected 'Iolanta' some years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed that.
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29. Board Game: Götterdämmerung [Average Rating:6.30 Overall Rank:7151]
Jonathan Degann
United States
Westlake Village
California
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Götterdämmerung - by Richard Wagner
The "Advanced Civ" of operas - the five hour conclusion to the 15 hour Ring Cycle. This is the only part of the Ring I haven't yet seen live - but next year I have tickets for the entire cycle, performed within two weeks time - in Los Angeles. Siegfried's Death scene always gives me goosebumps when I hear it.

PROLOGUE. On the Valkyries' rock, three Norns spin the rope of Fate, recalling Wotan's days of power and predicting the end of the Gods. When the rope breaks they descend in terror to their mother, Erda, goddess of the earth. At dawn Siegfried and his bride, Brünnhilde, emerge from their cave ("Zu neuen Taten"). Though fearful that she may lose the hero, she sends him forth to deeds of valor. As a token of his love, Siegfried gives Brünnhilde the magic Ring he took from Fafner, and she gives him her horse Grane in exchange. Passionately they bid farewell as Siegfried sets off into the world (Rhine Journey).

ACT I. In their castle on the Rhine, Gunther, Lord of the Gibichungs, and his sister Gutrune, both unwed, ask counsel of their half-brother, Hagen. Plotting to secure the Ring, Hagen advises Gunther to marry Brünnhilde: by means of a magic potion Siegfried can be induced to forget his bride and win her for Gunther in return for Gutrune's hand. The hero's horn announces his approach. Gunther welcomes him, and Gutrune offers him the potion. Remembering Brünnhilde, he drinks and forgets all, quickly succumbing to Gutrune's beauty and agreeing to bring Brünnhilde to Gunther. The two men swear an oath of blood brotherhood ("Blühenden Lebens"), and then depart. Hagen, left to keep watch, broods on his plot's success ("Hier sitz ich zur Wacht").

On the Valkyries' rock, Brünnhilde greets her sister Waltraute, who says Wotan has warned the gods their doom is sealed unless Brünnhilde yields the Ring to the Rhinemaidens. But Brünnhilde's new love for Siegfried is more important to her than concern for the Gods. She refuses to give up the Ring, and Waltraute rides off in despair. Dusk falls as Siegfried returns transformed by the Tarnhelm into Gunther's form. He tears the Ring from the terrified Brünnhilde's finger and claims her as Gunther's Bride.

ACT II. At night, before the Gibichung hall, Hagen dreams of his father, the Nibelung Alberich, who forces him to swear he will regain the Ring ("Schläfst du, Hagen?"). As dawn breaks, Siegfried returns with cheerful greetings for Hagen and Gutrune: he has won Brünnhilde for Gunther. Hagen summons the vassals to welcome the king and his bride ("Hoiho, Hoiho!"). When Gunther leads in Brünnhilde, she is startled at seeing Siegfried; observing the Ring on his finger, she decries his treachery and proclaims Siegfried her true husband ("Heilige Götter!"). Still under the potion's spell, the hero vows upon Hagen's spear that he has never wronged her ("Helle Wehr! Heilige Waffe!"). Brünnhilde swears he lies, but Siegfried dismisses her charge and leaves with Gutrune. The dazed Brünnhilde, bent on revenge ("Welches Unhold's List"), reveals to Hagen the hero's one vulnerable spot: a spear in the back will kill him. Taunted by Brünnhilde and lured by Hagen's description of the Ring's power, Gunther joins the murder plot. The couples proceed to the wedding feast.

ACT III. On the bank of the Rhine the three Rhinemaidens bewail their lost treasure ("Frau Sonne sendet lichte Strahlen"). Soon Siegfried approaches, separated from his hunting party. The maidens plead for the Ring, but he ignores both their entreaties and warnings. When the hunters arrive, Siegfried at Hagen's urging describes his boyhood with Mime (his Nibelung foster father), his slaying of the dragon Fafner and finally - after Hagen gives him a potion to restore his memory - his wooing of Brünnhilde ("Mime hiess ein mürrischer Zwerg"). Pretending indignation, Hagen plunges a spear into the hero's back. Remembering Brünnhilde with his last breath, Siegfried dies and is borne off (Funeral Music).

At the Gibichung hall, Gutrune nervously awaits her bridegroom's return. Hagen tells her Siegfried has been killed by a wild boar, but when his body is carried in she accuses Gunther of murder. Hagen admits the crime ("Ja denn! Ich hab'ihn erschlegen"). Quarreling over the Ring, Gunther is killed by Hagen, who falls back in fear when the dead Siegfried raises his hand. Brünnhilde, entering, orders a funeral pyre for Siegfried ("Starke Scheite"). She condemns the gods for their guilt in his death, takes the Ring, and promises it to the Rhinemaidens. Placing it on her finger, she throws a torch onto the pyre and joyfully rushes into the flames. As the river overflows its banks and the Gibichung hall is consumed, the Rhinemaidens, dragging Hagen to his death, regain their gold, at last purified of its curse. Flames engulf Valhalla, leaving a human world redeemed by love.

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30. Board Game: Turandot [Average Rating:5.99 Overall Rank:6196]
Stefano Castelli
Italy
Rome
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Err... My game belongs to this list!

It is based on the Nessun Dorma lyrical aria of the Turandot, by Giacomo Puccini.

It will be available by October-November 2009 by daVinci Games (publisher of BANG!, amongh the others...) and it won the "Miglior Gioco Inedito" Game Design Award in 2008).

I hope you'll enjoy it.
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31. Board Game: The Trojan War [Average Rating:6.03 Overall Rank:7961]
Mike Windsor
United States
Fort Worth
Texas
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Les Troyens - Hector Berlioz (French - 1863)

The opera comes from the Aeneid. It begins with the fall of Try, but focuses on the stay of Aeneas with Queen Dido. This is the first opra I saw. For some reason, I was at my college dorm on a weekend night, and this came on PBS (back when Texaco hosted opera on TV). At sat there drinking beer, watching a very small screen. I thought it was great, and everyone else thought I was nuts. Here is the synopsis from Wikipedia:

Act 1
At the abandoned Greek camp outside the walls of Troy

The Trojans are celebrating apparent deliverance from ten years of siege. They see the large wooden horse left by the Greeks, which they presume to be an offering to Pallas Athene. Unlike all the other Trojans, however, Cassandre is mistrustful of the situation. She foresees that she will not live to marry her fiancé Chorèbe. Chorèbe appears and urges Cassandre to forget her misgivings. But her prophetic vision clarifies, and she foresees the utter destruction of Troy. When Andromache silently walks in, the celebration halts.

Énée then rushes on to tell of the devouring of the priest Laocoön by a sea serpent, after he had warned the Trojans to burn the horse. Énée interprets this as a sign of the goddess Athene's anger at the sacrilege. Against Cassandre's futile protests, Priam orders the horse to be brought within the city of Troy and placed next to the temple of Pallas Athene. There is a sound of what seems to be the clashing of arms from within the horse, but the Trojans, in their delusion, interpret it as a happy omen. Cassandre has watched the procession in despair, and as the act ends, resigns herself to death beneath the walls of Troy.


Act 2
Before the act proper has started, the Greek soldiers hidden in the wooden horse have come out and begun to destroy Troy and its citizens.

Scene 1: Palace of Énée

With fighting going on in the background, the shade of Hector visits Énée and warns him to flee Troy and seek Italy, where he will build a new Troy. After Hector fades, Panthée conveys the news about the Greeks hidden in the horse. Ascagne appears with news of further destruction. At the head of a band of soldiers, Chorèbe urges Énée to take up arms for battle. All resolve to defend Troy to the death.

Scene 2: Palace of Priam

Several of the Trojan women are praying at the altar of Vesta/Cybele for their soldiers to receive divine aid. Cassandre reports that Énée and other Trojan warriors have rescued Priam's palace treasure and relieved people at the citadel. She prophesies that Énée and the survivors will found a new Troy in Italy. But she says also that Chorèbe is dead, and resolves to die. The other women acknowledge that Cassandre was correct in her prophecies and their error in dismissing her. Cassandre then calls upon the Trojan women to join her in death, to prevent being defiled by the invading Greeks. One group of women admits to fear of death, and Cassandre dismisses them from her sight. The remaining women unite with Cassandre in their determination to die. A Greek captain observes the women during this scene, with admiration for their courage. Greek soldiers then come on the scene, demanding the Trojan treasure from the women. Cassandre defiantly mocks the soldiers, then suddenly stabs herself. Polyxène takes the same dagger and does likewise. The remaining women scorn the Greeks as being too late to find the treasure, and commit mass suicide, to the horror of the Greek soldiers. Cassandre summons one last cry of "Italy!" before she collapses, dead.


Act 3
Palace of Didon

The Carthaginians and their queen, Didon, are celebrating the prosperity that they have achieved in the past seven years since fleeing from Tyre to found a new city. Didon, however, is concerned about Iarbas, the Numidian king, not least because he has proposed a political marriage with her. The Carthaginians swear their defence of Didon, and the builders, sailors and farmers offer tribute to Didon.

In private after these ceremonies, Didon and Anna then discuss love. Anna urges Didon to re-marry, but Didon insists on honoring the memory of her late husband Sichée (Sychaeus). Iopas then enters to tell of an unknown fleet that has arrived in port. Recalling her own wandering on the seas, Didon bids that these strangers be welcome. Ascagne enters, presents the saved treasure of Troy, and relates the Trojans' story. Didon acknowledges that she knows of this situation. Panthée then tells of the ultimate destiny of the Trojans to found a new city in Italy. During this scene, Énée is disguised as an ordinary sailor.

Narbal then comes to tell Didon that Iarbas and his army are attacking the fields surrounding Carthage and are marching on the city. But Carthage does not have enough weapons to defend itself. Énée then reveals his true identity and offers the services of his people to help Carthage. Didon accepts the offer, and Énée entrusts Ascagne to Didon's care. The Carthaginians and Trojans then prepare for battle against the Numidians.


Act 4
Scene 1: Royal Hunt and Storm

This scene is purely instrumental, set in a forest with a cave in the background. Didon and Énée have been separated from the rest of the hunting party. As a storm breaks, the two take shelter in the cave, where they acknowledge and consummate their mutual attraction.

Scene 2: The gardens of Didon

The Numidians have been beaten back, and both Narbal and Anna are relieved at this. However, Narbal worries that Didon has been neglecting the management of the state, distracted by her love for Énée. Anna dismisses such concerns and says that this indicates that Énée would be an excellent king for Carthage. Narbal reminds Anna, however, that the gods have called Énée's final destiny to be in Italy. Anna replies that there is no stronger god than love.

After Didon's entry, and dances from the Egyptian dancing girls, the slaves, and the Nubian slave girls, Iopas sings his song of the fields, at the queen's request. She then asks Énée for more tales of Troy. Énée reveals that after some persuading, Andromaque eventually married Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, who killed Hector, Andromache's earlier husband. Didon then feels resolved regarding her lingering feelings about her late husband. At one point, Ascagne slips Sichée's ring from Didon's finger. Didon retrieves it, but then forgets about it later. Alone, Didon and Énée then sing a love duet. At the end of the act, the god Mercury appears and strikes Énée's shield, then calls out three times, "Italy!".


Act 5
Scene 1: The harbour of Carthage

Hylas sings his song of longing for home, alone. Two sentries mockingly comment that he will never see his homeland again. Panthée and the Trojan chieftains discuss the gods' angry signs at their delay in sailing for Italy. The sentries remark that they have good lives in Carthage and do not want to leave.

Énée then comes on stage, singing of his despair at the gods' portents and warnings to set sail for Italy, and also of unhappiness at his betrayal of Didon with this news. The ghosts of Priam, Chorèbe, Hector and Cassandre appear and relentlessly urge Énée to proceed on to Italy. Énée gives in and realizes that he must obey the gods' commands, but also realizes his cruelty and ingratitude to Didon as a result. He then orders his comrades to prepare to sail that morning, before sunrise.

Didon then appears, appalled at Énée's attempt to leave in secret, but still in love with him. Énée pleads the messages from the gods to move on, but Didon will have none of this. She pronounces a curse on him as she leaves.

Scene 2: Palace of Didon

Dido asks Anna to plead with Énée one last time to stay. Anna acknowledges blame for encouraging the love between her sister and Énée. Didon angrily counters that if Énée truly loved her, he would defy the gods, but then asks her to plead with for a few days' additional stay.

The crowd has seen the Trojans set sail. Iopas conveys the news to Didon. In a rage, she demands that the Carthaginians give chase and destroy the Trojans' fleet, and wishes that she had destroyed the Trojans upon their arrival. She then decides to offer sacrifice, including destroying the Trojans' gifts to her and hers to them. Alone, she resolves to die, and after expressing a final love for Énée, prepares to bid her city farewell.

Scene 3: Garden of Didon

A sacrificial pyre with Énée's relics has been built. Narbal and Anna expound curses on Énée to suffer a humiliating death in battle. Didon then ascends the pyre, removes her veil and throws it on Énée's toga. She has a vision of a future African warrior, Hannibal, who will rise and attack Rome to avenge her. Didon then stabs herself with Énée's sword, to the horror of her people. But at the moment of her death, she has one last vision: Carthage will be destroyed, and Rome will be "immortal". The Carthaginians then utter one final curse on Énée and his people, vowing vengeance for his abandonment of Didon, as the opera ends.





 
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32. Board Game: Aton [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:553]
Jonathan Degann
United States
Westlake Village
California
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Akhnaten - by Philip Glass

Akhnaten is believed by many to be the first monotheist. Aten was his embodiment of the single god who replaced multiple Egyptian gods.

--

Akhnaten, the third of Philip Glass's "portrait" operas, is based on the life og the Egyptian pharaoh Akhnaten, who ruled Egypt from 1375 BC to 1358 BC. Like Einstein on the Beach and Satyagraha, it is not a "story" opera but an episodic-symbolic portrait of a historical personality whose visionary ideas dramatically changed the perceptions of the world around him.

Act I reveals Akhnaten's ascendency to the throne. It commences with the death of Amenhotep III, Akhnaten's father and introduces one of the major recurring themes of the opera - the Egyptian funeral rite. The funeral symbolizes the Egyptian interest in life after death, and, through its recurring presence, it becomes the unifying image of the opera: a shimmering epiphany in which death merges with life and man meets his image of God. It is an image reverberating with the ever present reminder of our shared mortality where ideas are the only accomplishments that survive. Amenhotep IV (meaning "spirit of Amon") is crowned pharaoh, but when he rises to address his people he has become Akhnaten (meaning "spirit of Aten"), signifying his abolition of the god Amon and the pantheistic past of the Egyptians in favor of the innovative concept of the monotheistic god Aten. Unlike other gods who were represented by idols, Aten was the first totally abstract concept of God, and Akhnaten calls on his people to join him in worshipping this revolutionary god. The act ends with Akhnaten watching the funeral of his father crossing into the Land of the Dead. The age of Amon has ended, and the time of Akhnaten has begun.

Act II portrays the changes Akhnaten wrought: he leads a revolt that deposes the powerful priests of Amon, the old older; he abandons the polygamy of prior pharaohs for the love of his beautiful wife, Nefertiti; and he creates Akhetaten, "City of the Horizon of Aten", a temple of art and beauty in honor of his new god. Like the legendary King Arthur, here he seeks to create his Camelot, inspired by the beneficence of his god Aten. The act ends with Akhnaten's hymn to the god, praising its beauty and recognizing it as the force of creation which only he, as the son of Aten, can recognize.

Act III depicts Akhnaten's fall. Isolated from his people and oblivious to the pleas of the outlying lands of his kingdom, where foreign barbarians are attacking the Egyptian empire, Akhnaten dwells in an insular world of his own creation: his city Akhetaten and his family. The priests of Amon emerge from the gathering crowds and call for the people to overthrow this pharaoh who ignores the suffering of his people and, lacking a male heir, must be thought cursed by the gods for his heresy. The temple of Akhetaten is destroyed. The old order is restored. Akhetaten is now a ruined city, recently excavated and on view for tourists only to hint at how much has disappeared with time, and in the Epilogue we find Akhnaten and his family wandering among the ruins. Slowly realizing that their time has passed, they join the funeral procession on their last journey... The age of Akhnaten has ended.
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33. Board Game: Caesar & Cleopatra [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:1079]
Marc Figueras

Barcelona
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Giulio Cesare, by G. F. Handel

Perhaps the best-known opera by Handel, and one of my favourites. Fortunately (at least for me) the last years have witnessed a great revival of Handel's operas, with recordings of less-known but absolutely breathtaking works.

Synopsis (from Wikipedia):

Act 1: Giulio Cesare and his victorious troops arrive on the banks of the River Nile after defeating Pompey's forces. Pompey's second wife, Cornelia, begs for mercy for her husband's life. Cesare agrees, but on condition that Pompey must see him in person. Achille (Achillas), the leader of Egyption army, presents Cesare with a casket containing Pompey's head. It is a token of support from Tolomeo (Ptolemy), the co-ruler of Egypt (together with Cleopatra, his sister). Cornelia faints. Cesare's assistant, Curio, offers to avenge Cornelia, hoping that she will fall for him and marry him. Cornelia rejects the offer in grief, saying that another death would not relieve her pain. Sesto, son of Cornelia and Pompey, swears by singing "Svegliatevi nel core" to take revenge for his father's death. Cleopatra decides to use her charm to seduce Cesare. Achille brings the news to Tolomeo that Cesare was furious over the murder of Pompey. Cleopatra (in disguise) goes to meet Cesare in his camp hoping that he will support her as the queen of Egypt. Cesare is amazed by her beauty. Cesare, Cornelia and Sesto go to the Egyptian palace to meet Tolomeo. Tolomeo is fascinated by Cornelia's beauty but has promised Achille that he could have her. Sesto attempts to challenge Tolomeo, but is unsuccessful. When Cornelia rejects Achille, he orders the soldiers to arrest Sesto.

Act 2: In Cleopatra's palace, she uses her charms to seduce Cesare. She sings praises of Cupid's darts and Cesare is delighted. In Tolomeo's palace, Achille pleads with Cornelia to accept him, but she rejects him. When he leaves, Tolomeo also tries to win her, but is also rejected. Sesto enters the garden of the palace, wishing to fight Tolomeo for killing his father. In Cleopatra's palace, Cesare hears the sounds of enemies approaching. Cleopatra reveals her identity and asks Cesare to flee, but he decides to fight. In Tolomeo's palace, the fight between Tolomeo and Sesto is interrupted by Achille's announcement that Cesare (in the attempt to run from soldiers) has jumped from the palace window and died. Achille asks again for Cornelia's hand in marriage but is turned down by Tolomeo. Sesto feels devastated and tries to kill himself but is prevented from doing so by his mother; he repeats his vow to kill Tolomeo.

Act 3: Sounds of battle between Tolomeo's and Cleopatra's armies. Tolomeo celebrates his victory against Cleopatra. Cesare has survived his leap and prays for Cleopatra's safety. While searching for Tolomeo, Sesto finds the wounded Achille. He hands Sesto a seal of authority to enable Sesto to command his armies before he dies. Cesare appears and demands the seal. He promises that he will save both Cornelia and Cleopatra or die. Cleopatra is overjoyed to see Cesare alive. Sesto finds Tolomeo in the palace courting his mother and kills him. The victorious Cesare and Cleopatra enter the city of Alexandria, and Cesare proclaims Cleopatra as queen of Egypt and promises his support to her country. They declare their love, and the people acclaim their happiness and the bringing of peace to Egypt.

 
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34. Board Game: The Ottomans: Rise of the Turkish Empire [Average Rating:6.41 Overall Rank:7004]
Marc Figueras

Barcelona
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Bajazet, by Antonio Vivaldi

The story is about the fate of Bajazet (Beyazid I) after being captured by Tamerlane. In fact, a pasticcio opera, which borrows arias from other composers. Vivaldi himself composed the arias for the good characters (Bajazet, Asteria and Idaspe) and mostly used existing arias from other composers for the villains (Tamerlano, Irene, Andronico) in this opera. Some of the arias are reused from previous Vivaldi operas

One of the most spetacular arias, Qual guerriero in campo armato, borrowed from Riccardo Broschi, brother of the great castrato Farinelli:



Performed by Vivica Genaux and Fabio Biondi's Europa Galante.
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35. Board Game: 11 de Setembre. Setge 1714 [Average Rating:7.24 Unranked]
Marc Figueras

Barcelona
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Artaserse, by Domènec Terradellas

This geeklist item has a gaming interest, as well. The composer, also known by his italianized name, Domenico Terradeglias, was born during the historical scenario simulated in the game on your left: the siege of Barcelona in 1713-1714. Terradellas moved from Barcelona to Naples in 1732 and during hos years in Italy his operas had considerable success.

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36. Board Game: Don Quixote [Average Rating:6.01 Overall Rank:3466]
Kimberly Orr
United States
Houston
Texas
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P52
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Don Quixote, by Jules Massenet

Jules Massenet's opera premiered in 1910 in Monte Carlo. It's not a straight retelling of Cervantes' "Don Quixote"; Massenet was inspired by a French play by Jacques Le Lorrain. While Massenet wrote his opera in five acts, most modern productions are done in two acts, as is Seattle Opera's.

In the opera, Don Quixote and his faithful "squire," Sancho Panza, ride into a small Spanish town and are met with cheers, while in town, Dulcinea's suitors are serenading her. Worshipping Dulcinea as his ideal woman, Don Quixote decides to join the admirers. A jealous suitor challenges Quixote to a duel. Dulcinea interferes and upon hearing Quixote's devotion to her, she gives him a test so he can prove his love: Retrieve her necklace from the thief who took it.

In the morning, Sancho Panza berates his friend for undertaking the quest. Quixote, fully involved in his journey, thinks he sees giants looming out of the mist, and charges — becoming snagged on the blade of a windmill.

That evening, as Sancho sleeps, Quixote is kidnapped by the bandits. As they are about to kill him, their leader is moved by Quixote's prayer and shows him mercy. When Quixote tells the thieves about his mission, calling himself a "knight errant," they give him Dulcinea's necklace and let him go.

That evening, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza ride to Dulcinea's to return the prize. When Sancho Panza asks about his own reward, his friend promises him an island and other riches. Like Don Quixote's other plans, this one is dashed when he returns the necklace and proposes to Dulcinea — and she turns him down.

We last see Don Quixote dying in the forest. Remembering his promise of an island, he tells his squire he can only offer an "isle of dreams."

--Seattle Times staff

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/thearts/2014247101_ope...


video: http://youtu.be/QeEcEsz4z-M

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