On writing opera tossups

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On writing opera tossups

Post by Nicklausse/Muse »

This is, admittedly, something of a niche topic, but I hope there are enough music types here to discuss it with. In any case: is there a standard for writing opera questions? I've found myself thrown off on occasion when an opera tossup gave the names of arias in English, especially if an opera tossup in a previous match had given them in the original language, so I suppose there isn't; does it bother enough people that it should be standardized?

On another note (ha! see what I did there), is it worth trying to write music-focused opera questions? I understand there's discussion on whether it's good to write theory-heavy tossups at all for the sake of non-music types, as well as discontent over opera questions that are really literature questions, so there are arguments from both sides.

Here's an example of a question I wrote for Penn Bowl:
This opera begins with a four-chord leitmotif that recurs throughout, even after the character it signifies has been killed. Another recurring musical theme, sung by a tenor in one of its iterations, accompanies the suicide of the title character. An interrogation in act two is juxtaposed with music offstage from a concert in which the heroine is singing, while the act one finale includes spoken text and bells and is set in a church. For ten points, name this opera containing the aria "E lucevan le stelle," whose title character agrees to sleep with the police chief Scarpia to save her lover Cavaradossi, composed by Giacomo Puccini.
ANSWER: Tosca
(Packets aren't up yet, so I don't know if or how it was edited.)

Is this answerable? Is it worth writing opera questions as music questions?
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by Susan »

Nicklausse/Muse wrote:This is, admittedly, something of a niche topic, but I hope there are enough music types here to discuss it with. In any case: is there a standard for writing opera questions? I've found myself thrown off on occasion when an opera tossup gave the names of arias in English, especially if an opera tossup in a previous match had given them in the original language, so I suppose there isn't; does it bother enough people that it should be standardized?
I don't think there's going to be a lot of support for always writing aria names in the original language; if nothing else, giving the names in English early in a question allows you to obscure what language the opera was written in, which can be useful for pyramidality.
Nicklausse/Muse wrote:On another note (ha! see what I did there), is it worth trying to write music-focused opera questions? I understand there's discussion on whether it's good to write theory-heavy tossups at all for the sake of non-music types, as well as discontent over opera questions that are really literature questions, so there are arguments from both sides.

Here's an example of a question I wrote for Penn Bowl:
This opera begins with a four-chord leitmotif that recurs throughout, even after the character it signifies has been killed. Another recurring musical theme, sung by a tenor in one of its iterations, accompanies the suicide of the title character. An interrogation in act two is juxtaposed with music offstage from a concert in which the heroine is singing, while the act one finale includes spoken text and bells and is set in a church. For ten points, name this opera containing the aria "E lucevan le stelle," whose title character agrees to sleep with the police chief Scarpia to save her lover Cavaradossi, composed by Giacomo Puccini.
ANSWER: Tosca
(Packets aren't up yet, so I don't know if or how it was edited.)

Is this answerable? Is it worth writing opera questions as music questions?
I think writing opera questions as music questions is certainly worthwhile, but I do think you want to make sure the musical clues are meaty and memorable. I don't have huge amounts of opera knowledge, but character-signifying leitmotifs that recur after the character has been killed aren't solely confined to Tosca--are you going to make a player remember which of several leitmotifs has four chords? Is there a more useful description of the leitmotif itself? Also, remember that even if you're not focusing on plot, that's what a lot of people know, and you do have to avoid dropping famous plot clues early (title character kills self--not uniquely identifying in opera but it does narrow it down more than one might wish at the end of the second sentence). I don't want to sound too negative--moving away from plot summarizing in operas is certainly a fine plan--but it's important to consider how these tossups will play, both among music specialists and people whose interest is more casual.

Getting into clues about performances/stagings would also be worthwhile (Tosca, your example, certainly has a wealth of this sort of clue).
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by theMoMA »

I don't think there's going to be a lot of support for always writing aria names in the original language; if nothing else, giving the names in English early in a question allows you to obscure what language the opera was written in, which can be useful for pyramidality.
I agree with this, though I'd say that operas with Italian libretti, especially very well-known operas, should almost always be written in Italian in the question. There is a pretty good chance you'll confuse someone with very good knowledge if you translate aria names that are well-known in the original language, like many arias in very famous operas are.
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by Mike Bentley »

Speaking of opera, I contend that it's a bit over-represented in modern quizbowl. I don't think there have been a lot of packets written in the last year or two without an opera tossup or bonus in them, which I think skews the Fine Arts distribution a bit much towards music.
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by Lagotto Romagnolo »

theMoMA wrote: I agree with this, though I'd say that operas with Italian libretti, especially very well-known operas, should almost always be written in Italian in the question. There is a pretty good chance you'll confuse someone with very good knowledge if you translate aria names that are well-known in the original language, like many arias in very famous operas are.
Agreed. On the other hand, there are some arias out there that are better known in translation (especially in Russian opera; I find transliterations confusing there).
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Gypsy punk wrote:
theMoMA wrote: I agree with this, though I'd say that operas with Italian libretti, especially very well-known operas, should almost always be written in Italian in the question. There is a pretty good chance you'll confuse someone with very good knowledge if you translate aria names that are well-known in the original language, like many arias in very famous operas are.
Agreed. On the other hand, there are some arias out there that are better known in translation (especially in Russian opera; I find transliterations confusing there).
Won't that give thoughtful players an unusual advantage, though, if we choose a set of languages from which to translate and a set from which not to translate? (Of course, I suppose the names of Russian arias are, well, Russian; still, it feels like it invites gaming.)
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by Nicklausse/Muse »

I don't think there's going to be a lot of support for always writing aria names in the original language; if nothing else, giving the names in English early in a question allows you to obscure what language the opera was written in, which can be useful for pyramidality.
It's not the use of English names per se with which I have a problem, but rather the inconsistency. If I can expect arias to be given in English, I don't waste time trying to match them to English operas. (Just as if a tossup on Les Miserables said some characters live on Plume Street - it obscures the setting, but if I know that that's standard, I don't immediately rack my brains for Plume Street, Cincinnati.)
There is a pretty good chance you'll confuse someone with very good knowledge if you translate aria names that are well-known in the original language, like many arias in very famous operas are.
There is also this - the fact that almost every (Western European) aria worth mentioning is better-known in the original language. (Eastern European ones are another story.)

I think writing opera questions as music questions is certainly worthwhile, but I do think you want to make sure the musical clues are meaty and memorable. I don't have huge amounts of opera knowledge, but character-signifying leitmotifs that recur after the character has been killed aren't solely confined to Tosca--are you going to make a player remember which of several leitmotifs has four chords?
For what it's worth, I would have buzzed on the second clue, because I am cautious on the buzzer and I personally don't know Wagner's oeuvre well enough to rule it out from the first clue. But the opening of Tosca is quite recognizable. It's difficult, to be sure, but I'm reasonably certain it's uniquely identifying.
Also, remember that even if you're not focusing on plot, that's what a lot of people know, and you do have to avoid dropping famous plot clues early (title character kills self--not uniquely identifying in opera but it does narrow it down more than one might wish at the end of the second sentence).
Suicidal title characters don't actually narrow down much of anything - comedies have already been ruled out given the previous mention of a character being killed, and loads of people commit suicide in opera - that clue (title character kills self) could also refer to Butterfly, Brunnhilde (although she does it in an opera that doesn't have her name), Magda in some editions, Suor Angelica, and Werther, to name a few really famous ones off the top of my head.

Which is slightly beside the point, as I'm not asking for a review of the question, but thank you.
Last edited by Nicklausse/Muse on Fri Mar 05, 2010 8:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! »

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:
Gypsy punk wrote:
theMoMA wrote: I agree with this, though I'd say that operas with Italian libretti, especially very well-known operas, should almost always be written in Italian in the question. There is a pretty good chance you'll confuse someone with very good knowledge if you translate aria names that are well-known in the original language, like many arias in very famous operas are.
Agreed. On the other hand, there are some arias out there that are better known in translation (especially in Russian opera; I find transliterations confusing there).
Won't that give thoughtful players an unusual advantage, though, if we choose a set of languages from which to translate and a set from which not to translate? (Of course, I suppose the names of Russian arias are, well, Russian; still, it feels like it invites gaming.)
I can see your point, but 1. there are very few arias that are not significantly better known by a translated or native-language title (Isn't the "Flower Duet" technically called "Ah, Malika!" or something? I have no freaking idea, and I love Lakme.) and 2. thoughtful players probably deserve some kind of advantage.
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by grapesmoker »

Russian pronunciation is hard for English speakers, much harder than Italian or German or French. As a Russian speaker who would almost certainly have the advantage on any actual music player if the arias were given in the original, I would encourage people to give translations of Russian opera content. As for the other 3 languages, my crude understanding is that people do in fact learn the original names in those languages, so why not give them that way? I mean, even I have an easier time coming up with "La dona e mobile," than "Woman is fickle."
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask »

Confession: I know next-to-nothing about Tosca (in general I know suprisingly little about opera, especially Italian opera), but your tossup seemed like a good idea focusing on good, musical information, and I let it through editing without a whole lot of changes. The one thing I did do is add another aria title or two near the end, just to try and get another intermediate buzz point in.
final version of the Tosca tossup wrote:This opera begins with a four-chord leitmotif that recurs throughout, even after the character it signifies has been killed. Another recurring musical theme, sung by a tenor in one of its iterations, accompanies the suicide of the title character. An interrogation in act two is juxtaposed with music offstage from a concert in which the heroine is singing, while the act one finale, featuring spoken text and bells, is a Te Deum. For ten points, name this opera featuring the arias "Recondita armonia" and "E lucevan le stelle," whose title character agrees to sleep with the police chief Scarpia to save her lover Cavaradossi, composed by Giacomo Puccini.
ANSWER: Tosca
I would say that titles of arias etc. should be given in the language with which they are most familiar to listeners. Most of the time, this is in the initial language, but sometimes it's going to be in English (catalog aria, anvil chorus...), and I don't think going back and forth in this manner is problematic in any way.
Bentley Like Beckham wrote:Speaking of opera, I contend that it's a bit over-represented in modern quizbowl. I don't think there have been a lot of packets written in the last year or two without an opera tossup or bonus in them, which I think skews the Fine Arts distribution a bit much towards music.
The ACF distro calls for an even split between music and visual within 3/3 fine arts. This is not skewed. If you want to lower the proportion of opera, the only thing to do is increase coverage of other varieties of "other music", which given community standards being the way they are these days basically just means more jazz. I actually would not be averse to cutting opera by a couple questions per tournament, and using the space to allow for a more inclusive and accurate definition of the arts- in fact, I ended up doing just that with the bonuses on non-western orchestras, Woody Guthrie, and G&S (okay, I guess that last one is opera-ish) at Penn Bowl. And even so, opera will always be the dominant category in "other music", just as sculpture/architecture takes up most of the "other visual arts" space. But it's pretty clear I'm one of the only people who feel this way, so don't expect it to become a trend.
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by lasercats »

Aria titles should ALWAYS be given in their original language, unless they have a common name, like The Bell Song from Lakme or The Jewel Song. Translating aria titles would make opera tossups that much more difficult. I was an opera singer for 2 years and I would never be able to recognize them from translated names, because I never had to translate anything but my own repertoire.

Theory clues are ok, but I have never found them useful. If there is some weird orchestration I think that merits a clue, but saying that the opera opens on an Ab arpeggio is basically meaningless (this goes for music questions in general). Plots, arias, and info about their composition should be higher priorities.

I don't have a problem with the amount of opera questions at all, but I suppose that is because I answer most of them. In all seriousness, they are a great choice for a music question because their performance encompasses the most types of musicians. Orchestra members may have played for the opera, choir members may have sung a choral arrangement or appeared in the chorus, and singers may have either performed in the opera or performed an aria from it.
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Re: On writing opera tossups

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Nicklausse/Muse wrote: For what it's worth, I would have buzzed on the second clue, because I am cautious on the buzzer and I personally don't know Wagner's oeuvre well enough to rule it out from the first clue. But the opening of Tosca is quite recognizable. It's difficult, to be sure, but I'm reasonably certain it's uniquely identifying.
I'm pretty sure that that's uniquely identifying (enough so that I felt confident buzzing off it), although I thought that Scarpia's motif is three chords and not four. Leitmotifs tend to be a melodic theme, so the fact that this is just three loud chords is pretty unusual and what also helps is that you mention that these three chords open the opera (something that can't be said of all leitmotifs). Uniquely identifying description of leitmotifs might be difficult in other operas, but for this one, I think it works. The middle clues also look like they give enough fodder for someone who's never studied the opera closely to buzz, there's plot stuff (an interrogation, the heroine being a musician, the first act's setting of a church) and the musical clues seem like things one doesn't need theoretical background to pick up on (one can notice that Scarpia is represented by a three-chord motif or that there is an offstage choir in Act Two merely by listening to / seeing the opera). My seal of approval probably doesn't mean much since I'm not a great question-writer, but I really like this tossup.
Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote: I would say that titles of arias etc. should be given in the language with which they are most familiar to listeners. Most of the time, this is in the initial language, but sometimes it's going to be in English (catalog aria, anvil chorus...), and I don't think going back and forth in this manner is problematic in any way.
I agree with this. Another way of putting this, I think, is to suggest that if the aria has a very famous descriptive moniker (such as Flower Duet, Champagne Aria, etc.), that English moniker should be given. If its title is actually a line from the aria, that first line should never be translated, so long as the opera is written in Italian, French, or German. I tend to agree with Aaron and Jerry that Russian should be translated, and I probably feel the same away about Czech and Hungarian (once those start coming up later in the year).
If you want to lower the proportion of opera, the only thing to do is increase coverage of other varieties of "other music", which given community standards being the way they are these days basically just means more jazz. I actually would not be averse to cutting opera by a couple questions per tournament, and using the space to allow for a more inclusive and accurate definition of the arts- in fact, I ended up doing just that with the bonuses on non-western orchestras, Woody Guthrie, and G&S (okay, I guess that last one is sort of opera-ish) at Penn Bowl. And even so, opera will always be the dominant category in "other music", just as sculpture/architecture takes up most of the "other visual arts" space. But it's pretty clear I'm one of the only people who feel this way, so don't expect it to become a trend.
Yes, I was very happy when I saw that you kept my G&S (which I wouldn't count as opera, either), and my bonus part that asked about a conductor. And I'd be really happy to see more jazz, operetta, and Broadway, and especially some more stuff on culturally significant classical performers. But I can see why opera tossups are probably a lot easier to write for non-musicians.
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! »

lasercats wrote:Aria titles should ALWAYS be given in their original language, unless they have a common name, like The Bell Song from Lakme or The Jewel Song. Translating aria titles would make opera tossups that much more difficult. I was an opera singer for 2 years and I would never be able to recognize them from translated names, because I never had to translate anything but my own repertoire.
Uh-uh.

What's that hilarious pretzel scene from The Nose? That should be given in English. Tchaikovsky operas have a mix of French and Russian a lot of the time that would either be too much of a giveaway (as per what Andy mentioned upthread) or too confusing or, in the case of Russian, too unpronounceable. Tossing up Jenufa or The Bartered Bride? Good luck having moderators pronounce the Czech in interpretable ways (plus, I've seen opera programs for Czech operas like Rusalka give aria names in English). Operas in Italian and French and most in German probably shouldn't have their aria titles translated, but the rule stops there.
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by lasercats »

Not That Kind of Christian!! wrote:
lasercats wrote:Aria titles should ALWAYS be given in their original language, unless they have a common name, like The Bell Song from Lakme or The Jewel Song. Translating aria titles would make opera tossups that much more difficult. I was an opera singer for 2 years and I would never be able to recognize them from translated names, because I never had to translate anything but my own repertoire.
Uh-uh.

What's that hilarious pretzel scene from The Nose? That should be given in English. Tchaikovsky operas have a mix of French and Russian a lot of the time that would either be too much of a giveaway (as per what Andy mentioned upthread) or too confusing or, in the case of Russian, too unpronounceable. Tossing up Jenufa or The Bartered Bride? Good luck having moderators pronounce the Czech in interpretable ways (plus, I've seen opera programs for Czech operas like Rusalka give aria names in English). Operas in Italian and French and most in German probably shouldn't have their aria titles translated, but the rule stops there.
Ok, I see your point. How about this: don't translate the aria titles yourself if they are coming from a non-French, Italian, or German opera. I don't think I've ever heard a tossup about a Czeck or Russian opera that includes an aria title that isn't "Song to the Moon" anyway.
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by Nicklausse/Muse »

I agree with this. Another way of putting this, I think, is to suggest that if the aria has a very famous descriptive moniker (such as Flower Duet, Champagne Aria, etc.), that English moniker should be given. If its title is actually a line from the aria, that first line should never be translated, so long as the opera is written in Italian, French, or German. I tend to agree with Aaron and Jerry that Russian should be translated, and I probably feel the same away about Czech and Hungarian (once those start coming up later in the year).
I think this is the best solution. Epithets in English, first lines in original languages for Western European and translated for Eastern European. (One particular question I'm thinking of where a translated title threw me off was about a Meyerbeer opera, which definitely falls under "should not be translated.")
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by Louis XIV and Twenty Million Henchmen »

One thing I like doing is paraphrasing or translating aria titles and just putting them in like you would dialogue in a lit tossup, like "One character in this work asserts that 'the offended snake does not rest'* until it has taken revenge, then infiltrates a harem in an unsuccessful attempt to kill Tolomeo" (obviously not the best question fragment ever, but…). I like the idea of doing this in lead-ins in particular to make it less obvious that the answer is an opera and not some literary work, if it's appropriate to do so (to reduce possible transparency or whatever).

I agree that English titles can be confusing, especially if they're of the "they translated the entire libretto to make it singable and this aria has a first line, and thus title, that is nowhere near the original one" variety. This might (what do you think?) be improved by using more literal translations and calling attention to the fact that that's what they are, e.g. "One character in this opera sings an aria whose title translates to 'His Face Pleases Me' about a character whom she has challenged to a duel and whose part was originally written for a castrato." (When I Googled this aria, I discovered that it's apparently sometimes also known by the English "title" "His Lovely Frame My Fancy Charms". :lol: ) It would maintain the challenge of not revealing what the original language is right away (and if this is done often with diverse titles, then there will be less of a "they gave an English title so it must be in Russian" effect), while also giving you something to work out (and I think it's also still buzzable if you're familiar with "Quel volto mi piace") without the confusion of "they just said an English title that may or may not be a reasonable translation of something I may or may not know". I'm sure that this is already done all the time and that people have opinions on it; but given the more general topic of this thread, I thought I'd mention it as one possible solution to one of the questions that was raised earlier (and because I don't know whether people like it when this happens, or whether doing this has the effect I would predict when questions are actually played).

Bad music nerd confession: I'm not familiar with Tosca. Do the chords of the Scarpia leitmotiv have an interesting quality or sound? I think it would be an interesting clue if, for instance, some character in an opera were represented by three half-diminished seventh chords whose roots ascended by major thirds and were played by a quartet of heckelphones at the end of Act VI, or something. YMMV.

*Any translations from Italian in this post may be pretty terrible.
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Re: On writing opera tossups

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Miriam has made an excellent post. If what you're doing needs explaining, just explain it.

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Re: On writing opera tossups

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Repulse class ship of the line wrote:Bad music nerd confession: I'm not familiar with Tosca. Do the chords of the Scarpia leitmotiv have an interesting quality or sound? I think it would be an interesting clue if, for instance, some character in an opera were represented by three half-diminished seventh chords whose roots ascended by major thirds and were played by a quartet of heckelphones at the end of Act VI, or something. YMMV.
When I saw Tosca in Des Moines last summer, the music director dude (not sure on his actual title) who gave the pre-opera speech gushed over the Scarpia motif and told everyone to keep an eye, or ear, out for it during the entire opera. I can't say I would've buzzed off the clue as written, but I think it's a worthwhile and good clue that would've put me on the right track, so it hopefully could've done so for others familiar with the opera.
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by lasercats »

Does the language of an opera really need to be disguised until later in a question? It's not like knowing that the opera is in Italian or French is going to give anything away, since there are hundreds of each to choose from.
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by Louis XIV and Twenty Million Henchmen »

OctagonJoe wrote:When I saw Tosca in Des Moines last summer, the music director dude (not sure on his actual title) who gave the pre-opera speech gushed over the Scarpia motif and told everyone to keep an eye, or ear, out for it during the entire opera. I can't say I would've buzzed off the clue as written, but I think it's a worthwhile and good clue that would've put me on the right track, so it hopefully could've done so for others familiar with the opera.
Fair enough. I was just wondering if it would have been a good excuse to get some theory clues in there, if you're into that kind of thing.
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by Nicklausse/Muse »

One thing I like doing is paraphrasing or translating aria titles and just putting them in like you would dialogue in a lit tossup, like "One character in this work asserts that 'the offended snake does not rest'* until it has taken revenge, then infiltrates a harem in an unsuccessful attempt to kill Tolomeo" (obviously not the best question fragment ever, but…). ...
This might (what do you think?) be improved by using more literal translations and calling attention to the fact that that's what they are, e.g. "One character in this opera sings an aria whose title translates to 'His Face Pleases Me' about a character whom she has challenged to a duel and whose part was originally written for a castrato."
I think these are good idea as well. Basically, anything that eliminates that "are they or are they not talking about an English opera" ambiguity.
Bad music nerd confession: I'm not familiar with Tosca. Do the chords of the Scarpia leitmotiv have an interesting quality or sound?
They're not particularly interesting theory-wise (B-flat major, A-flat major, E major), but they are recognizable.


..........also, there are three of them, not four. *facepalm* I knew I should have double-checked.
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by Megalomaniacal Panda on Absinthe »

I agree that English titles can be confusing, especially if they're of the "they translated the entire libretto to make it singable and this aria has a first line, and thus title, that is nowhere near the original one" variety. This might (what do you think?) be improved by using more literal translations and calling attention to the fact that that's what they are, e.g. "One character in this opera sings an aria whose title translates to 'His Face Pleases Me' about a character whom she has challenged to a duel and whose part was originally written for a castrato." (When I Googled this aria, I discovered that it's apparently sometimes also known by the English "title" "His Lovely Frame My Fancy Charms". ) It would maintain the challenge of not revealing what the original language is right away (and if this is done often with diverse titles, then there will be less of a "they gave an English title so it must be in Russian" effect), while also giving you something to work out (and I think it's also still buzzable if you're familiar with "Quel volto mi piace") without the confusion of "they just said an English title that may or may not be a reasonable translation of something I may or may not know".
To take up the unlikely though felicitous case of a tossup on Partenope, I would strongly prefer a clue proceeding "one character in this opera sings the aria 'Seguaci di Cupido'" to one utilizing a presumed 'literal' English translation the question writer concocts. I am dubious that there are more than one or two quizbowl players sufficiently familiar with the vagaries of Stampiglia's 18th century Italian to assess what a 'literal' translation would even be.

For example, "Io seguo sol fiero" could be rendered "I can follow alone, audaciously" or "Only I follow proudly" or "I follow alone proud." My suspicion is that the first translation is closest to the 'literal' meaning but I would be hesitant to buzz on any of them. Why bother with the ambiguity of translation when you can just give the first Italian line of the ritornello or the aria's nickname? I can't think of any situations where transparency amongst Italian, French, or German operas is an issue nor do I think there is such a paucity of Eastern European opera that having English aria titles affects play. Perhaps other people are more competent at reverse engineering Italian or French lines from any of a number of English translations, rendering my objections moot, but I remain skeptical that "explain it" is a sufficient palliative.

All that aside, I'm not opposed to the occasional theory clue, but both the tossup in the original post and Chris' edit seem unbuzzable to me until the mention of bells in a church/the Te Deum (or maybe "interrogation" and "singing protagonist" if I'm feeling attentive). I will join the chorus of Tosca non experts, but I have seen it performed once and remain entirely unsure how I am supposed to infer that said four chord leitmotif is supposed to refer to Scarpia.
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

I fully agree with Shantanu, the clue as is seems like it is quite vague, and when you are a player in a game I'll hazard a bet that it will go by your head far too quickly for many people who know a good deal about Tosca to process it.
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by theMoMA »

Good aria clues should contain an English summary of what the aria means to the plot, or a buzzable description of notable musical features of the aria. I think that aria titles in Italian, French, English, German, and other easily pronouncable languages should almost always be rendered in the original language, unless you think there are massive transparency problems in doing so. Eastern European arias are another story, since rendering them in original language tends to narrow down the answer space pretty quickly, and it is much harder to pronounce correctly or understand in game situations. In these situations, good descriptions are especially crucial.
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by Louis XIV and Twenty Million Henchmen »

I can't think of any situations where transparency amongst Italian, French, or German operas is an issue nor do I think there is such a paucity of Eastern European opera that having English aria titles affects play.
I don't know – I was thinking maybe of Rinaldo, Armide, and Armide, but anything that would come up in a tossup on one of those would give away the time period before you even mentioned the language. So maybe that wasn't such a good point after all.
To take up the unlikely though felicitous case of a tossup on Partenope,
You know it's coming! XD
I would strongly prefer a clue proceeding "one character in this opera sings the aria 'Seguaci di Cupido'" to one utilizing a presumed 'literal' English translation the question writer concocts. I am dubious that there are more than one or two quizbowl players sufficiently familiar with the vagaries of Stampiglia's 18th century Italian to assess what a 'literal' translation would even be.

For example, "Io seguo sol fiero" could be rendered "I can follow alone, audaciously" or "Only I follow proudly" or "I follow alone proud."
Yeah, I agree that the effectiveness of doing this definitely depends on the individual title, and that's why I chose that particular one for the example. If I wanted to reward specific knowledge of "Io seguo sol fiero" I would probably just paraphrase the text, and not even worry about the title. And if I did use the title, I think that once you got to "Io seguo sol fiero", it would be late enough in the question to start using original titles even if you wanted to keep the language a secret at the beginning. My impressions of the relative quizbowl-difficulty of Partenope arias might be off, though. :lol:

I also didn't mean to raise the question of what is or isn't more literal than something else – I just tend to remember the meanings of the texts of pieces I'm more familiar with than those I'm less familiar with, even if I don't actually know the language, and so I thought that telling players that something isn't in English but has a title that means a certain thing in English might be more helpful than risking the confusion that might arise by saying "One character in this work sings the aria 'His Lovely Frame My Fancy Charms'…", which might be interpreted as being about something in English by people hearing the question. This also works for things that are sometimes referred to by any of several possible English translations but are best known by their original titles – "…this opera, whose title translates to 'The Child and the Enchantments'…"

Obviously there are many ways to deal with all these issues, and different ones will work with different writing styles and be preferred by different people.
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by Nicklausse/Muse »

On a vaguely related subject: are the editors that edit opera questions generally not music people?* Because, while I fully admit that there is probably no plot clue for Tosca or Boheme that I could not buzz on and thus things that seem easy to me may not always be easy, dropping "Soave sia il vento" in the first line of a tossup on Cosi seems like the sort of thing that can only result from a mis-ordering of clues.

*Yes, I know, not all music people are opera people, which I should be aware of, given my almost complete ignorance of instrumental music, blah blah blah
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Re: On writing opera tossups

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

There are so few authors that specialize in musical fine arts questions that I do not believe there has ever been a single instance of a tournament having a classical music editor and an opera editor. People seem to forget, despite what the Northeast is like, a player who knows anything about classical music is a relatively rare phenomenon.
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