Deeper Into Jeopardy! XXI: Opera Characters – $2000

Jeopardy! category: OPERA CHARACTERS (13-06-2014)

$1600 clue: Despite his wife’s pleas not to do so, this prince attacks the Polovtsi, a Tartar tribe, & is promptly captured

Correct response

The gist: In the year 1185, long before the Russian Czars, the army of the pre-Russian polity Putyvl is readying for battle against the Cumans, who have fled westward away from the Mongol invasions. 

In Alexander Borodin’s “Prince Igor,” the army’s commander, is enjoying listening to his men sing his and his fellow officers’ praises – when a solar eclipse darkens the mood considerably. Yaroslavna, Igor’s wife, implores him not to set out on campaign, but Igor insists he must, and Yaroslavna goes to tend to her brother, Prince Galitsky, who is being sheltered by Igor after being banished by his brothers and father. The army sets out, and the prologue ends.

In the first act, we see that Igor’s army has been defeated, and he’s been taken captive by Khan Konchak, the opposing army’s leader. Konchakovna, daughter of the Khan, has fallen in love with Igor, but Igor’s son Vladimir has himself fallen for Konchakovna – in any case, Igor refuses to consider his son’s marriage while they are held prisoner. Igor passes on an offer of escape, saying it’s beneath his honour to do so. Meanwhile, the Khan treats Igor as an honoured guest, trying to make friends with him, but it doesn’t work; Igor swears that when he is freed he will raise another army and defeat the Cumans. The Khan’s dancers perform in honour of Igor’s bravery, at the Khan’s command.

Back in Putyvl, Prince Galitsky and his retainers are enjoying the pleasures of life, and plotting to wrest control of the city from Igor in his absence. Yaroslavna constantly worried for her husband, and when a group of girls accuse Galitsky of being uncaring, she lashes out at her brother and calls him a traitor, but is powerless to do anything more. Just then, messengers from the defeated army report their news, and alarms sound – the Cuman army is approaching the city. They sack it, and the Cumans sing praises to their Khan.

Igor finally escapes in order to unite the Russian princes. The Khan wants to put Vladimir to death in retribution, but Konchakovna pleads for his life, and the two finally marry. Back in Russia, Yaroslavna assumes her husband is dead, and mourns him along with a chorus of peasants, until Igor rides into sight out of the distance. He rebukes Skula and Yeroshka, two bards who have been colluding with Galitsky, and forces them to ring the church bells announcing his return. On hearing the bells, the people rejoice at Igor’s return and begin preparing to fight the Cumans as one.

Costume design for Prince Igor from a 1909 production at Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg

The clue: With this last clue, the writers reveal that the category could have more specifically been “Opera Title Characters,” but I guess they didn’t want to give that much away. Like the other clues in the category, this one just gives some character names and bits of plot – no hints to go on except a knowledge of the opera. To a non-expert (putting it lightly) like me, Prince Igor seems reasonably obscure for a $2000 – even if I didn’t know anything about Rigoletto for $1600, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of it, which I can’t say about this one.

In Jeopardy!: “Prince Igor” is a rare one – it appears in just seven clues in the J!Archive, where it’s called a ballet as well as an opera. The only common thread is Borodin, mentioned in five – other than that, nothing except Russia shows up much. There are lots of Russian operas, though, so don’t bank on this one being right.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *