This invigorating Flemish city is called Gent in Dutch, Ghent in English, Gand in French and Gante in Spanish.
The Spanish ruled Flanders for many years, which is why they have their own names for some of the cities.
The Spanish King Charles V in fact was born in Gante (Ghent) in 1500. He grew up speaking French and Flemish, and only learned Spanish much later when he needed it to become the king of Spain.
His son, Philip II, was born in Spain and grew up speaking Spanish. Philip later had the reputation of being especially harsh on his Flemish subjects.
Philip’s son Don Carlo had vague ideas of trying to free Flanders from his father’s rule — not in reality but at least in Schiller’s play and Verdi’s opera Don Carlo.
In that opera, the dying words of Carlo’s friend Rodrigo, the Marquis of Posa, are “Salva la Fiandra” in Italian — or “Sauvez la Flandre” in the original French version of the opera. (“Save Flanders” that would be in English.) Unfortunately I did not see Peter Konwitschney’s controversial staging of Don Carlo at the Flanders Opera in 2010, but I have seen several different versions of this opera in other places: a five-act French version in Strasbourg, a five-act Italian version in Frankfurt am Main and Wiesbaden, a four-act Italian version in Braunschweig, Dresden and Geneva, and a German re-translation in Dessau.
As I have written in one of my Geneva posts:
“Most of the characters in Don Carlo are based (some more faithfully than others) on historical figures who really lived in 16th century Spain. The big exception to this is the Marquis of Posa, who was entirely a product of Friedrich Schiller’s imagination. I like to think of Posa as a kind of time traveler, an idealistic 18th century intellectual who was somehow catapulted two hundred years backwards in time and landed on his feet in 16th century Spain, where he became a decorated war hero, a respected diplomat, the confidant of King Phillip II of Spain — and inevitably a victim of the Spanish Inquisition.
“All six major characters of Don Carlo took a profound hold on Verdi’s imagination, and he wrote great music for all of them to sing, but perhaps most especially for Posa as he lies dying on a stone prison floor in a futile attempt to save his friend Don Carlo.”
My photo in this post is from 2012. I revised the text in 2019.