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Subject: Re: Met Tosca in HD/Radio
From: Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 28 Jan 2018 21:33:13 -0500
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It would be great if at some point someone like Mark Schubin could explain to us the 
mechanics of the radio/HD transmissions (meaning, how the voices are mic'd/balanced 
and what the desired result is - which I assume is NOT necessarily to make everyone 
sound as they do in the house, but most likely instead to make the voice-to-voice and 
voice-to-orchestra balance more even). 

Also, remember that of course, even before HD-casts started, the technology has steadily 
improved over the years, both in terms of microphone quality (one can easily compare 
the Met broadcasts of different decades) and of balance capability. (I remember in the 
late 70's, when I started listening to the broadcasts as a young teen, that moments like 
the trumpet section playing during the stretta of "Di Quella Pira" were WAY WAY WAY 
hotter than than the chorus or the rest of the orchestra. Always sounded so odd. These 
days that would be easy to fix.)

As for studio recordings, invaluable as they are for capturing so much repertoire and so 
many performers - I do assume we all know that they are 100% fabricated 
"performances." Studio recordings are rarely done in score order (this goes for 
symphonic/concert music as well as opera) - so that, unlike an onstage performance, you 
can get to hear a Siegfried who is just as fresh-voiced as Brunnhilde at the end of 
"Siegfried" - because that duet might be recorded on a different day than other scenes - 
maybe even first. Also, of course, the final product is an idealized sequence of small takes 
and "splices" - it's probably very rare to even hear a single aria that isn't the product of 
several different takes put together. Balances are "created" in the control room - a quieter 
voice can be brought out in the mix, just as instruments that often get buried in the total 
sound can be pointed up. And dubbing is also common - I can't speak to any particular 
opera recording, but it wouldn't be surprising to find out that any number of recordings 
were made without all the performers ever being in the same room together, even when 
the result is that we hear them as if they are. This can be due to scheduling, cost, or 
other issues. And of course nowadays, voices can be enhanced in all sorts of ways, 
including correcting pitch. 

Even "live" recordings (I'm not generally speaking of pirated one-offs, but commercial 
recordings of live performances) aren't necessarily so live. It's pretty common for a dress 
rehearsal or another performance of the same opera or concert to also be recorded, in 
case editing is needed. And of course, such recordings are also subject to post-production 
editing to enhance the sound from what was recorded/heard in the venue. 

But - this is not a way to say that "in-house" is any more "genuine." After all, it may 
depend on WHERE you sit, or what your hearing is like (we all hear and perceive things 
differently, aside from the basic health of our ears), and how the acoustics of the venue 
itself affect what is being heard. 

But, as recordings go - one does have to take into account that they are more documents 
of a score than they are of anyone's real-time performance. And yet, of course, it's our 
only way to hear many singers. We can only judge for ourselves how close the recorded 
product is to the real voice. 






On Sun, 28 Jan 2018 16:48:35 -0500, Stephen Charitan <[log in to unmask]> 
wrote:

>Max,
>
>I agree with much you say.  But I would argue opera has been an aural /
>visual art long before it could be appreciated as a purely sonic
>experience.  Most of the composers of the core repertory never expected
>their works would be experienced via records or radio, let alone in
>something called "HD" but I think "HD" would have been the most satisfying
>revelation to them - at least when it works...can't imagine what they would
>have thought of "Regie."
>
>What made this "Tosca" work for me, more than the Jejune Zeffereli settings
>was the combination of the voices, and actually seeing  the dramatically
>vibrant commitment of the singers play out the emotions on their faces -
>watching as well as hearing them live  these iconic roles.  This "Tosca"
>was, at least in HD, a "complete" experience.  Judging by the visuals of
>the in house audience, and our little group in an Akron Cinemark - there
>was a satisfying unanimity  between what was seen and heard.- just what
>made Peri's "Euridice" such a hit in 1600.
>
>Steve
>
>ps...Bob, the Zinkster in HD would have been better suited to "Saturday
>> Night Live" or her own show on "Comedy Central..."
>>
>
>On Sun, Jan 28, 2018 at 2:21 PM, Max Paley <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
>> The visual aspect of a performance heavily colors our hearing perception.
>> I’ve found often that if I close my eyes in a live performance, what I hear
>> seems significantly different, not only in terms of the performance itself
>> but also in sound quality and balance.
>>
>> Hearing only the audio, I mentioned “squally and pushed” singing from
>> Yoncheva. I heard a fine voice oversinging. People watching it might have
>> seen and therefore heard a riveting dramatic performance in which the
>> sounds correlated to what they saw.
>>
>> I remember someone (it might have even been CLO, discussed in another
>> thread) talking about seeing Callas’ “return to the Met” Tosca. He said
>> that, because of the extraordinary demand for tickets, he had to stand and
>> his view of the stage was sometimes blocked. I’m paraphrasing, since I
>> haven’t actually re-read the comment in ca. 50 years, but his comment was
>> to the effect that, when he saw her, he was so mesmerized by the
>> performance that he would have stated that her singing was ample and
>> secure. When he couldn’t see her, he was suddenly aware of severe
>> unevenness and unsteadiness and even lack of volume.
>>
>> It’s totally legitimate for people who only hear the audio of a
>> performance to report on what they perceive. If someone who saw the
>> performance comes away with a totally different perception, it doesn’t make
>> the audio listener “wrong.”
>>
>> Max Paley
>>
>> Sent from my iPad
>>
>> > On Jan 28, 2018, at 10:04, Bob Rideout <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> >
>> > Idia
>> >
>> > Friends to the end and this ain't the end!
>> >
>> > Let's take a step backward. Don said specifically that he only
>> > heard the audio part since he was in his car at the time.
>> >
>> > I went back and re-read his post to see if he had, in any way,
>> > "dissed" the director or any aspect of the production. He had
>> > not mentioned anything other than the singing, so, it seems
>> > to me that your post and criticism conflated two issues, one
>> > of which played no part in his discussion.
>> >
>> > Now, you may certainly think that opera is best served as a live
>> > experience, and it often is, but I will say, as I have many times -
>> >
>> > Millions of Americans, and others, were, and are today, longtime
>> > opera fans, having never experienced opera except on records
>> > and/or on radio. They are often quite knowledgeable and they
>> > have every right to share their observations in the context of
>> > the limitations provided by audio alone. Recordings made many
>> > stars who would otherwise be hardly known, and the Met Guild
>> > made opera available to millions over the last eighty years,
>> > millions who would likely have never known the joy of music
>> > that has ennobled and enriched their lives, had it not been for
>> > the airwaves.
>> >
>> > BTW, not to enable my friend, Mr. Charitan's, favorite punching
>> > bag, but it was often better just to hear Zinka, and leave the rest
>> > to the imagination. ;-) She wasn't alone!
>> >
>> > Xox
>> >
>> > Bob
>> >
>> >> On Sun, Jan 28, 2018 at 12:15 Idia Legray <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> >>
>> >> Ouch! Pretty rough words to a little ol' friend but I do get your
>> meaning
>> >> and respect it highly and hope it does not, in any way, put a chink in
>> our
>> >> special relationship.
>> >> Idia
>> >>
>> >>
>> >
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