Sunday, January 17, 2010

Operamania 101: Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Who here likes The Amazing Race? I don't know about you, but I used to watch that show religiously.

In the 10th leg of last season's The Amazing Race (installment #15), you would've seen the final four teams (including a pair of Harlem Globetrotters) come to a roadblock at the Estates Theatre in Prague, Czech Republic. It was here that one member of each team had to search the whole of the historic theatre for a teeny tiny mandolin.

And while the teams were searching furiously for the miniature instrument, there was an opera singer onstage singing the role of Don Giovanni. It was, after all, at the Estates Theatre that Mozart premiered Don Giovanni in 1787.

Once the mandolin was located, the teams would then bring it to the opera singer who would then hand them the next clue to the route marker.

Fast forward to 3:00 for the start of the treasure hunt

Press play for the continued shenanigans

So who is Don Giovanni?

Don Giovanni is an opera about a heartless cad who life revolves around wine and amorous conquests. He views Donna Elvira, Donna Anna and Zerlina as sport, seducing and manipulating them. The wronged women all want to seek vengeance on Don Giovanni. In the end, Don Giovanni's comeuppance comes in supernatural form, dragging him to an eternity of hellfire. The closing line of the opera?

"Such is the end of the evildoer: the death of a sinner always reflects his life" (Questo รจ il fin)

This was not the first time opera was featured in this around the world race for a million dollars.

In season 14, teams made their way to a pit stop at the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre, which is the largest theatre in Russia. (even larger than the Bolshoi Theatre) As it was just a pit stop, no tasks were required but to just be the first team to arrive there.

However, later in the race, on the 10th leg, teams were faced with choosing a detour in Beijing, China. Unlike a roadblock where only one member of the team would carry out tasks, a detour is a choice between tasks that the team would decide to perform.

In this leg's detour, the teams had to choose between Chinese Waiter or Beijing Opera. Chinese Waiter had the teams go to a designated Chinese restaurant and take down four customer orders (spoken in Mandarin) and pronounce it correctly back to the chef. (in Mandarin, of course)

If the team chose Beijing Opera, they would go to Hguang Huiguan Opera House and apply Chinese opera make-up on each other, to go with the traditional costumes. But it had to look identical to the 2 opera singers in front of them them. Only after the make-up pass muster with the opera master were they able to get their next clue.

Fast forward to 9:20 for the detour challenge

Fast forward to 2:50 to see how the teams fared

If you produce a show about a race around the globe, you're bound to feature opera sometime; be it landmarks, costumes or singing. That's because one can find opera in almost every big city in the world. Opera is truly international.

And because there wasn't any Chinese opera singing featured in The Amazing Race (darn it!), I shall leave you Operamaniacs with Il mio tesoro, the Don Giovanni aria which greeted the teams in Novosibirsk.

See you at the next route marker.

~ Ling Chan

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