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Subject: Reflections on a Surtitles(TM) Anniversary
From: "Janos G." <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Janos G.
Date:Mon, 18 Oct 2004 20:48:47 -0700

text/plain (38 lines)

[From the 10/19]

Classical Voice reader Barbara Baxter writes from Stratford, Ontario, that
the nearby little town of St. Marys celebrated "Opera Day" last week,
complete with a declaration by the mayor, and a visit by former San
Francisco Opera general manager Lotfi Mansouri, who gave a lecture on the
subject for John Leberg's opera classes.
In the same message, Ms. Baxter takes issue with several previous references
in this column, crediting Mansouri with the introduction of supertitles in
opera, when he was heading the Toronto company. She says it was Leberg -
working as Mansouri's assistant at the time - who invented them. Approaching
the 22nd anniversary of this important enhancement for the enjoyment of
opera, some research seemed to be in order. It was the Canadian Opera
Company's staging of Strauss' Elektra that SURTITLESTM made their first
appearance on Jan. 21, 1983. More American than British, and probably easier
to pronounce without the "TM," supertitle is the standard reference in this

Defined as "capsulized translation of an opera's libretto, projected onto a
screen on the proscenium of the stage during a live performance,"
supertitles have spread around the world in a relatively short time. There
is one more name to add to the honor list: Gunta Dreifelds, part of the COC
team, and now a major consultant to opera companies using supertitles. If
Mansouri is credited alone at times, there is a good reason for that: as the
head of the company, he took the praise and the blame for the newfangled
thing, mostly the latter. It's only a faint memory now, but at the first
appearance of supertitles, there were angry and anguished letters to the
editor about "destroying opera." Well, yes, and putting professional
football on television put an end to that business . . .

Janos Gereben
[log in to unmask]

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