Thursday, February 10, 2011

WHAT'S IN A NAME? Don Q, by any other name, would smell as sweet.

Several astute readers of Seattle Opera’s publicity materials have noticed that the name of our upcoming production is often Don Quixote, but sometimes Don Quichotte. What’s going on? Miguel de Cervantes wrote a famous Spanish novel called Don Quixote; three centuries later, Jules Massenet wrote an opera in French, where the character’s name is Don Quichotte. Since that’s the name you’ll hear them sing when you come to the theater, you’ll often see the French name if we’re talking specifically about the Massenet. But since the character and novel are well-known by the original Spanish name, people will be using that spelling as well.

Don Quichotte is not alone among Seattle Opera productions this year in having double names: how many of you attended Il barbiere di Siviglia recently, and how many of you chose to come to The Barber of Seville instead? Who’s excited about Die Zauberflöte, in May, and who will hold out for The Magic Flute? Since, unlike Cervantes, Sir Walter Scott has fallen off of most people’s reading lists, nobody was encouraging us to try to call last fall’s opera Lucy of the Lammermoors…although (believe it or not) there was discussion about whether in the summer we were doing Tristan und Isolde or Tristan and Isolde. To tell the truth, in English those two are better known as Sir Tristram and Lady Iseult…so there you go. Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds!


  1. I've always loved the title, "The Bride of Lammermoor." But Lucia has a nicer ring than "La Spoza di Lammermoor!" And I just love the Italianization of the English character names. Operatic conventions are often quaint but always quite amusing!

  2. In some of the Spanish spellings you'll see it as Don Quijote with the 'j' instead of the 'x' that we're familiar with in English.