October 7, 2013

The 8 most annoying things about opera supertitles

Not good when this suddenly appears...
Let me assure you right off the bat: when it comes to supertitles in live performances of opera, I, Your Humble Blogger, am not a snob. I think understanding what the characters are singing about as they sing it is the single greatest advancement in opera appreciation in a century.

HOWEVER.....  there are times when they drive even the most patient aficionado a little nuts. Here are my top eight supertitle-fail scenarios. Why eight, you ask? Because, um, er.....

....I couldn't seem to come up with ten. You wouldn't want unworthy filler, would you? You expect more from a quality blog like this, right? I thought so.

AND HERE THEY ARE:

8. When a character sings lines containing 116 syllables and the supertitle just says "Yes, at once".

7.  When there's a musical number - aria, duet, chorus, whatever - and the supertitles chug along for half of it and then just go blank for the rest of the piece, leaving you to infer that those same words are being repeated.

6.  When the next slide of a supertitle contains several lines, the last of which is a funny punch-line, causing the audience to laugh five seconds before the character actually says it.

5.  When there's a complex passage in which 5 or 6 people are singing more or less simultaneously, meaning the supertitle-guy has to decide which lines to show and which won't make the cut for lack of space, with no ability to delineate which character is saying the lines that DID make the cut.

4. When artists on stage are singing the original text set by the composer, often in a flowery formal linguistic style ("Thou art like unto the goddess of the moon") but the supertitle translation is reduced to current slang in order to increase "relevancy" ("I really dig you!").

3. When repetitions of text ARE displayed, but employ the abbreviation "etc." ("We shall rejoice forever more etc.") People don't really ever sing "etc.".

2. When the super-title operator's mind wanders and falls behind by three or four slides, creating stress for the audience as they wonder if he/she has suffered a health emergency.

1.  When a technical glitch occurs, causing the Windows logo to appear in the middle of a death scene.

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