Take the Opera Challenge
"The Quiz is really a tradition with a lot of listeners," says Rex Levang, MPR's Music Director. "So it's quite an honor to be asked, but also a little scaryor more than a little."
On Saturday, Jan. 19, Levang will be in New York as one of the three panelists appearing on the Opera Quiz during the second intermission of Puccini's Tosca.
Ten minutes before Act II ends, the panelists are quietly escorted from the ChevronTexaco box. (ChevronTexaco is the long-time sponsor of the broadcasts.) From there, they go to List Hall, a smaller auditorium within the Met. When the act is over, while many audience members are still in their seats, the quiz panel goes on the air, tackling questions sent in by Met listeners.
The questions are wide-ranging, but some categories come up again and again. The factual: How many operas can you name set in Egypt? The fanciful: What operatic character would you go on a date with? The "piano questions," in which panelists identify operatic passages played on the piano.
"I first heard the Met broadcasts when I was a kid in Duluth," says Rex. "Back then, they were aired on a commercial station, except that sometimes they were pre-empted for a big hockey game. I don't think you'd find that arrangement now."
In fact, the Met has been heard on MPR since 1970. Nationwide, the Met is on over 350 stations, and is also heard worldwide, though non-English speaking countries do not always carry the Opera Quiz.
"There aren't any prizes, and they don't keep score," says Rex. "It's just meant as entertainment. But I think I'll be a little nervous all the same."
To help Rex fend off those pre-quiz jitters, the MPR Music Department gave him a sendoff, with a Minnesota potluck lunch and a mock opera quiz, with questions devised by MPR staff.
Want to match your operatic wits with theirs? Here's what they came up with.
The Opera Challenge
1. Please identify operas that are set within convents or include nuns (or aspiring or former nuns) as characters.
2. After the singer who created the role, who was the defining Peter Grimes of the 20th century? What career did he give up before becoming a full-time music student and singer?
3. What opera opens with the line "Du bist ein guter Mensch..."? What does it mean in the context of the scene, and what is the rest of the line?
4. Donizetti originally wrote the mad scene from Lucia di Lammermoor with a different solo instrument in the aria than we usually hear. What was the original, and what instrument accompanies Lucia today?
5. There are many ways of making a grand entrance in grand opera boats, balloons, horses, and even skisbut which way (not yet mentioned) is the most fatal way to make an entrance?
6. What composer translated 12 books of Homer's Odyssey when he was a kid?
7. The Boar, Bob, and a body. Which opera is this?
8. Mother Goose, Queen of Hearts, and a freshly dug grave. What is the opera and composer?
9. Between February 6, 1935, and April 15, 1941, Lauritz Melchior and Kirsten Flagstad sang together in how many Met performances of Tristan und Isolde?
10. When did the first black artist appear onstage at the Met?
11. Which characters from opera had the following non-aristocratic jobs: A teamster? A rabbi? A pimp? A prostitute? A spy?
12. Is there a doctor in the house? Name at least six operas that include a practicing doctor in the cast.
13. Name the nine Valkyries and the three Rhine Maidens.
14. What was the date of the first Texaco-sponsored broadcast and what was the opera?
15. In what role did Maria Callas debut at the Met and when? What was her only Met broadcast?
16. Who was Leonard Warren and how and where did he die?
17. Where did the old Met stand?
18. When did the new Met open and what was the first performance (a trick question!)?
19. This question is about the soprano in this Saturdays broadcast, Catherine Malfitano. What famous French heroine did she sing with the Washington, D.C., Opera Society in the 1970s?