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Opernkarte I

Published June 14, 2024 Updated June 16, 2024

Humorous designs by Peter Becker on the theme of the Opera.

1984 Germany Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik Peter Becker Humour Music Add to Collection

This is the first of two opera-themed packs produced by the Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik, Altenburg. This pack celebrates four operas: Chaikovsky’s “The Queen of Spades” (spades), Bizet’s “Carmen” (diamonds)’ Verdi’s “Aida” (clubs), and Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” (hearts). Each ace and court card displays a character from the relevant opera, while the deuces have illustrations of the composer, and the tens display a vignette of a character from the respective opera. The humorous designs are the work of the graphic artist and illustrator Peter Becker (whose name appears on the two of spades and is barely visible on the back of the cards). There is an extra title card and two jokers: one featuring a comic illustration of Sir John Falstaff from “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and the second showing Kezal from Smetana’s “The Bartered Bride”. Interestingly, the pip cards have 4-corner indices while the aces and court cards have 2-corner indices.

Opernkarte I, with artwork by Peter Becker, produced by the Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik, 1984 Opernkarte I, with artwork by Peter Becker, produced by the Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik, 1984 Opernkarte I, with artwork by Peter Becker, produced by the Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik, 1984 Opernkarte I, with artwork by Peter Becker, produced by the Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik, 1984

Above: Opernkarte I, with artwork by Peter Becker, produced by Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik, 1984.


Opernkarte II

This second pack of the opera-themed cards was produced by the Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik, Altenburg in 1989, and also features the wonderful, humorous designs of artist Peter Becker on the Jokers, Aces and court cards. The court cards of each suit illustrate the characters from a particular opera: “Margarete” by Gounod (Clubs); “Rusalka” by Dvořák (Diamonds); “Der Rosenkavalier” by Strauss (Hearts); and “Tosca” by Puccini (Spades). In addition, the deuces have illustrations of the composers. Like Opernkarte I, the pip cards have 4-corner indices while the aces, deuces and court cards have 2-corner indices (the indices are at the opposite corners in this edition, and in different typefaces). The artist’s name appears on the three of diamonds.

Opernkarte II, with artwork by Peter Becker, produced by the Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik, 1989 Opernkarte II, with artwork by Peter Becker, produced by the Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik, 1989 Opernkarte II, with artwork by Peter Becker, produced by the Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik, 1989

Above: Opernkarte II, with artwork by Peter Becker, produced by Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik, 1989.

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By Peter Burnett

Member since July 27, 2022

I graduated in Russian and East European Studies from Birmingham University in 1969. It was as an undergraduate in Moscow in 1968 that I stumbled upon my first 3 packs of “unusual” playing cards which fired my curiosity and thence my life-long interest. I began researching and collecting cards in the early 1970s, since when I’ve acquired over 3,330 packs of non-standard cards, mainly from North America, UK and Western Europe, and of course from Russia and the former communist countries.

Russian Playing Cards

Following my retirement from the Bodleian Library in Dec. 2007 I took up a new role as Head of Library Development at the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) to support library development in low-income countries. This work necessitated regular training visits to many sub-Saharan African countries and also further afield, to Vietnam, Nepal and Bangladesh – all of which provided rich opportunities to further expand my playing card collection.

Since 2019 I’ve been working part-time in the Bodleian Library where I’ve been cataloguing the bequest of the late Donald Welsh, founder of the English Playing Card Society.


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