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Subject: Re: Amplification in the Opera House (formerly RE: SALOME opening night MET 5 December)
From: Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 10 Dec 2016 11:57:58 -0500

text/plain (66 lines)

Takis wrote:
"Jon claims it depends on the opera house. In most opera houses that I've heard off-stage 
singing there was no problem hearing this effect. Yes the voice sounded less and I bet in 
this Salome Johanaan would have sounded weaker in that hole. But that's to be expected, 
the composer knew that. In Butterfly, when she arrives they also start from a distance. 
Now if they start performing opera in huge venues or building bigger opera houses, it goes 
against the art form. I suspect most operas were composed for theatres smaller than the 
MET so if we start building opera houses to get more people in rather than serve the art 
form, we're doing something wrong."

Exactly what I was getting at - thank you. However, I would ask one question of those of 
you who swear that you know these offstage moments are *never* amplified - how do 
you know? We're all so often assaulted with over-amplification, yes - but there are more 
subtle ways to do it where you really don't hear any electronic effect at all. So how can you 
be sure?

Donald wrote:
"And as for music meant to be heard, why does the Met always have Manrico
in a prison cell so far away from Leonora that 'Miserere' which is, after all a duet, 
loses that effect altogether..  And why must Turiddu open CAVALLERIA with a serenade 
from the other side of town?  Overdone effects can be just as disturbing as minimal ones."

Absolutely agreed. ;-)

Isaac wrote:
"Opera is an art form that glorifies the techniques of singing and vocal projection, and also 
of sustained human effort to engage with and master the natural elements and forces."

And with utmost respect, you just defined "purist" for me. ;-)  I personally believe that 
opera is, and must be, much more than just some kind of glorification of the voice. That's 
ultimately rather boring all by itself. Sure, I go to opera partially to be wowed by the 
singers - but in the context of a performance, I could care less about watching for 
technique/projection - that's something we assume has been learned in voice lessons, and 
we assume is being used correctly. (I know, that assumption isn't always true lol.) The 
technique is what is allowing the voice to do what it does, but it's not what we should be 
primarily aware of. But I also go for the *theatrical* event that it should be (and 
sometimes isn't), for the orchestra, the designers' contributions, and for the sheer 
pleasure of experiencing what the librettist and composer endeavored to create. 

When I was a very young operagoer, I remember going to a Rigoletto with one of my 
mother's friends who was a huge opera buff. I remember turning to him after the soprano 
sang "Caro Nome" and remarking how good she was. I was surprised and initially confused 
by his response - "Eh - she was just vocalizing." I never asked him to explain - but 
eventually I understood - he felt she wasn't engaged in the performance past making 
pretty sounds and executing dutiful coloratura. And that there has to be more - both 
musically and dramatically, to make opera truly come alive. 

So, even as I acknowledge that we all enjoy the high-wire act of operatic singing, I hear 
phrases like "the glorification of the voice" and, sorry, I tend to translate that to "just 
vocalizing." I need so much more than that. 

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