Supertitles versus Translations: The Battle Continues

by Suzanne Calvin

Okay, enough lazing by the swimming pool, it’s time to stir the proverbial pot. New York Times Classical Music Critic Anthony Tommasini is reviving the Supertitle debate, once again, and I would be curious to know how our audiences feel about them — particularly as we stand on the brink of a new era in a new opera house.

Do you favor Supertitles projected above the stage? The back-of-the-seat system shown in the photo in this article? English translations from the original language? Or, no titles or compromises at all? If you favor this last option, I would really like to hear your explanation because accessibility has done so much to expand opera audiences in recent years.

However, as my dad used to say, “Everybody is entitled to an opinion.”

Read this and let us hear yours.

Suzanne Calvin, Assoc. Dir. of Marketing

The Dallas Opera

4 Responses to Supertitles versus Translations: The Battle Continues

Sue Harrison says: August 5, 2008 at 4:05 pm

Laughing out loud! My season ticket is on the front row where back-of-the-seat titles are impossible! But that is for one last season. In the new hall, I will sit farther away and will want translations.

Opera in the original language with supertitles work best for me so far, haven’t experienced back-of-the-seat. Yes, I get a crick in my neck, my eyes are not on the stage, but understanding the story is a good trade-off.

Opera sung in English is as incomprehensible as opera in Czech. I need titles in English for English language opera. Burdening singers with learning the libretto in another language is a waste of their time and talent. Besides, I want Vesti la giubba in Italian. Ever buy an album of Italian arias sung in German? Even glorious singers can’t redeem the wrong sound of the language.

Lorraine Olson says: July 12, 2008 at 3:16 pm

I enjoyed the back of the seat titles in Santa Fe the two times I have been there. You have the option of turning them off, just like the article says you can do at the Met. (I didn’t in Santa Fe because I was seeing unfamiliar operas.) They’re also easier to see, especially if you are sitting close to the stage. Best of all, you can switch to a different language! What if English is not your native language, or you are studying French or Italian and just want to practice your skills? How innovative is that?

Ray Ward says: July 10, 2008 at 11:54 am

Strong vote for the supertitles from me and my family. Over the past two seasons my 17 year old grandson has actually begged to go to the opera with me–because he understands what’s happening and enjoys it. Now he’s asking me to change the series I attend (midweek) so he can come home from college and attend opera on weekends. Future season ticket holder, there.

I have never experienced the seat-back style of titles. I do find looking up at titles often takes my attention from the stage.