Deeper Into Jeopardy! XXI: Opera Characters – $400

Here’s a category that I’ve chosen just because I’m woefully ignorant of it, and any categories on the topic that come up on the shoe are basically a wash as far as I’m concerned. So in the spirit of self-improvement, this week we’ll be taking a close look at the magical, musical world of OPERA CHARACTERS. This was a Double Jeopardy! category that appeared on the June 13, 2014 show, which also happens to have been my birthday, so there’s yet another reason to choose it.

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

$400 clue: This slave girl & her mistress Amneris are both in love with Radames, a captain in the Egyptian Army

Correct response

The gist: The title character, she was an Ethiopian princess before Radames captured her and gave her to the Pharaoh. Aida was written by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi and librettist Antonio Ghislanzoni, first performed in Cairo on Christmas eve, 1871. It was commissioned by Isma’il Pasha, ruler of Egypt at the time and great admirer, like his grandfather, of European culture and custom.

The opera begins with Radames being groomed to lead another Egyptian campaign against invading Ethiopian forces led by Aida’s father King Amonasro. Radames is eager to do so in order to win both glory and, hopefully, the heart of the slave girl Aida, whose royal parentage and secret love for Radames are both unknown to the Egyptians. Meanwhile Amneris, the Pharaoh’s daughter, is also in love with Radames.

Sure enough, Radames defeats the Ethiopian forces, but Amneris, suspecting that Aida is her rival for Radames’ affection, tells the slave girl that Radames died. When the grief-stricken Aida confesses her love, Amneris becomes enraged and starts plotting revenge. The Egyptian victory parade enters Thebes, and Aida is reunited with her father who, like her, is now a captive and has hidden his true identity. Radames is declared the Pharaoh’s successor, and is given Amneris as his future queen.

Aida and Radames plan to meet in secret, and Amonasro convinces his daughter to make Radames spill the secret of the Egyptian army’s location. She does so, and Aida and her father escape while Radames, ashamed, gives himself up to the guards. He’d tried by the High Priest Ramfis and sentenced to death, despite Amneris’ pleading both to Radames to deny the charges and to the priests to have mercy. In the final scene, Radames is sealed into a vault below a temple to die, where he finds Aida who has decided to die beside her beloved. The opera ends with Aida dying in Radames’ arms.

Cover of a libretto of Aida, 1890, showing the final scene

The clue: This is the only clue in this category that I actually knew, and I only knew it because it mentions Egypt. Aida is, as far as I know, the only opera that Jeopardy! asks about in which Egypt is central to the plot, so that’s always something I look for in opera categories, and luckily, it often shows up. Obviously if you know the characters that helps too, but if you know that you almost certainly also know that the play takes place in Egypt.

In Jeopardy!: “Aida” shows up in too many other words to search in the J!Archive (like “al-Qaida” and “Haida“), so I’ll need to go with a search of “Aida opera” instead, and that returns a respectable 24 regular and three FJ! clues. Egypt shows up a lot, of course, with 16 clues; Cairo is in another four and others have other references to the country, like the Temple of Luxor and the Nile. Ethiopia gets two clues as well. Naturally, Verdi shows up in 23. As for the FJ! clues, one links the 1920s discovery of King Tut’s tomb to the opera, one lists a bunch of Egyptian things (Memphis, Thebes, the Nile), and the third is about a musical adaptation of the play (with music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice), with songs like “The Gods Love Nubia” and “Another Pyramid.”

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