A quick guide to the opera "Don Quixote" by Jules Massenet.

A synopsis of ‘Don Quixote’

Jules Massenet’s opera premiered in 1910 in Monte Carlo. It’s not a straight retelling of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote”; Massenet was inspired by a French play by Jacques Le Lorrain. While Massenet wrote his opera in five acts, most modern productions are done in two acts, as is Seattle Opera’s.

In the opera, Don Quixote and his faithful “squire,” Sancho Panza, ride into a small Spanish town and are met with cheers, while in town, Dulcinea’s suitors are serenading her. Worshipping Dulcinea as his ideal woman, Don Quixote decides to join the admirers. A jealous suitor challenges Quixote to a duel. Dulcinea interferes and upon hearing Quixote’s devotion to her, she gives him a test so he can prove his love: Retrieve her necklace from the thief who took it.

In the morning, Sancho Panza berates his friend for undertaking the quest. Quixote, fully involved in his journey, thinks he sees giants looming out of the mist, and charges — becoming snagged on the blade of a windmill.

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That evening, as Sancho sleeps, Quixote is kidnapped by the bandits. As they are about to kill him, their leader is moved by Quixote’s prayer and shows him mercy. When Quixote tells the thieves about his mission, calling himself a “knight errant,” they give him Dulcinea’s necklace and let him go.

That evening, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza ride to Dulcinea’s to return the prize. When Sancho Panza asks about his own reward, his friend promises him an island and other riches. Like Don Quixote’s other plans, this one is dashed when he returns the necklace and proposes to Dulcinea — and she turns him down.

We last see Don Quixote dying in the forest. Remembering his promise of an island, he tells his squire he can only offer an “isle of dreams.”

Seattle Times staff