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Avantasia is a story composed of two music albums by Tobias Sammet's metal opera project Avantasia. It is written in the format of a play and the songs are the characters' dialogs and inner thoughts. The story was split into two parts, The Metal Opera and The Metal Opera Part II, released in 2001 and 2002. The albums feature many artists from various power metal bands, such as Helloween, Gamma Ray, Stratovarius, Rhapsody of Fire and many more.
"Avantasia" is a portmanteau of the words "avalon" and "fantasia" ("fantasy") and describes "a world beyond human imagination" (a quotation from the booklet). The project consists of two CDs containing 23 pieces, which tell a fictional story about a Dominican monk, Gabriel, in the early 17th century (the story starts in 1602 AD).
The main character of the story is the young Gabriel Laymann, novice of the Dominican order in the abbey of Mainz. It's the year 1602 and, with the rest of the order, Gabriel joins in the witch hunts. But when he is unexpectedly reunited with stepsister Anna Held, who is awaiting trial as a witch, Gabriel begins to doubt. He sneaks into the library, where he reads a forbidden book. His mentor Bruder Jakob notices him, and Gabriel is thrown into the dungeon.
While there, he meets an old man, Lugaid Vandroiy, who introduces himself as a druid ("Reach Out for the Light"). He tells Gabriel about another dimension, the world Avantasia, which is in great danger. Vandroiy offers to help rescue Anna if Gabriel agrees to help Avantasia. They manage to escape ("Breaking Away"), and Vandroiy takes Gabriel to an old stone pit, which hides a portal between the two dimensions, and uses it to send Gabriel to Avantasia.
In the meantime, Johann Adam von Bicken, bishop of Mainz, Bruder Jakob and the bailiff Falk von Kronberg are traveling to Rome to meet the pope Clement VIII ("The Glory of Rome"). With them is the book Gabriel read. Old documents tell that the book is the last of seven parts of a seal, which will help its owner to absolute wisdom if he brings it to the tower in the center of Avantasia.
When Gabriel arrives in Avantasia ("Avantasia") he is welcomed by two inhabitants, the elf Elderane and the dwarf Regrin ("Inside"). They tell him about a war against the forces of evil, of the pope's plan, and its consequences ("Sign of the Cross"). If the pope uses the seal, the link between Avantasia and the human world will break down with grievous consequences for both worlds. Gabriel arrives at the tower just in time, and while the pope talks to a mysterious voice from the inside, Gabriel manages to steal the seal and, in the chaos he causes, bring it back into the elvish city, Sesidhbana ("The Tower"), which marks the end of the first part.
In the second part, The Seven Angels appear, who were released at the time that Gabriel stole the seal and then fled. Those who stayed behind see the angels destroy Avantasia. Pope Clement VIII asked the angels to calm his rage while Lugaid doubted if Gabriel was correctly chosen.
Then the Voice of the Tower are commanded to bring what belongs (the seal) or they'll end burning in this night. Gabriel realizes his mistake and returns to deliver the seal, thus locking the angels.
But Gabriel isn't satisfied yet. He wants to find out more about Avantasia, so Elderane sends him to the tree of knowledge. There Gabriel has a vision of Bruder Jakob enduring great pain in a lake of flames ("The Final Sacrifice"). Elderane tells him about a great golden chalice in the catacombs in Rome, in which innumerable tortured souls are trapped, and warns him of a beast that guards the chalice. Despite the elf trying to discourage them, Gabriel and Regrin go back into the human world. They find the chalice and knock it over, allowing many souls to escape ("Chalice of Agony"). The beast awakes and attacks both of them; the dwarf is killed but Gabriel manages to flee.
Afterwards, Gabriel returns to Vandroiy, who has been waiting for him. The druid now fulfills his part and sneaks into the prison by night to free Anna. In the process, he finds a "refined" Bruder Jakob who plans to do the same. Falk von Kronberg, who has been having doubts of his own ("Memory"), catches them and approaches to arrest them. A fight breaks out; Vandroiy is killed by Kronberg who is then slain by Bruder Jakob. Anna escapes and is reunited with Gabriel, and together they go into their unknown future ("Into the Unknown").
Religion in Avantasia
Christendom and the Roman Catholic Church play an important role in the plot. Men of the Church like Pope Clement VIII are criticised for thinking that they hold the only truth and that they have to keep the normal people ignorant for their own good, not realising that the Church men themselves are too blinded to recognise the truth. Criticism like this appears very often in Sammet's works: many Edguy songs like "The Kingdom" (1997) or "Theater of Salvation" (1999) contain themes, plot and dialogue very similar to those found in Avantasia.
The project is described as a "Metal Opera" because it has an underlying plot and each role has its own singer, though it's not an opera by the classical definition, but rather a collection of pieces, which refer to the individual points of the plot printed in the booklet.
From a stylistic view, the majority of the songs are melodic power metal meshed with a voluminous sound, many orchestral passages and choral parts, gaining Avantasia recognition as symphonic power metal. One song from each part, "Inside" and "In Quest For" respectively, is accompanied almost exclusively by piano. The first part also contains three short instrumental pieces.
The most complex piece is the first song of Part II, "The Seven Angels", featuring seven of the eleven singers. The song is over 14 minutes long and contains a classical "stanza/refrain" part, two guitar solos, choirs, a passage with piano accompaniment, and an epic finale. It also plays an important part in the plot, as it serves as summation of the first part, and has caused discussion[clarification needed] due to the inclusion of lyrics not printed in the booklet.
- Henjo Richter - Guitar
- Jens Ludwig - Guitar
- Norman Meiritz - Guitar
- Timo Tolkki - Guitar
- Markus Grosskopf - Bass
- Alex Holzwarth - Drums
- Eric Singer - Drums
- Tobias Sammet - Keyboard, Bass
- Frank Tischer - Piano
- Tobias Sammet - Gabriel Laymann
- Michael Kiske - Lugaid Vandroiy
- David DeFeis - Bruder Jakob
- Ralf Zdiarstek - Bailiff Falk von Kronberg
- Sharon den Adel - Anna Held
- Rob Rock - Bishop Johann von Bicken
- Oliver Hartmann - Pope Clement VIII
- Andre Matos - Elderane the Elf
- Kai Hansen - Regrin the Dwarf
- Timo Tolkki - Mysterious Voice of the Tower
- Bob Catley - Tree of Knowledge