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Subject: Re: Old fashioned prompters
From: "G. Paul Padillo" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:G. Paul Padillo
Date:Wed, 16 May 2018 15:05:08 -0400

text/plain (72 lines)

Mr. Kubiak asks:

"Have people ever wondered about/discussed how singers managed to main
maintain their dramatic characterizations with all this distracting talking comi
coming at them constantly?"

* * * * * * *

In the live Mexico City Rigoletto with Gobbi/Callas, the prompter is almost 
comically loud  in a monotone he speaks:

Prompter:  Gualtier
Callas/Gilda:  Gualtier
Prompter: Malde
Callas/Gilda: Malde
Prompter: Gualtier
Callas/Gilda: Gualtier
Prompter: Malde
Callas/Gilda: Malde

Actually, as someone who's been onstage a good bit I can say while 
prompting may be a distraction on a broadcast to the listener, it's not 
nearly the distraction to a singer one might think.  There are often all sorts 
of sounds/noises onstage that the audience will not pick up; sounds, 
talking  (even if masquerading as "whispering" ) from the wings, cast 
members helping each other with myriad types of cues, and all sorts of 
other things happening on stage that are (generally) unheard and covered 
by the music flowing out into the house.

Opera singers are privy to even more "noise" during rehearsals when, 
trying to sing, they are given instructions in voices louder than any 
prompter ever you'll hear on a broadcast, and told: move to the table, go 
towards the divan, pull out the knife NOW, drop the handkerchief HERE, fall 
to your knees NOW, don't cross that line . . . and on and on.  A singer must 
know a role COLD and be comfortable and confident that anything that 
happens is not going to disrupt him/her from executing the music precisely as w
as written (or, at least, conducted.)  One must be able to hear direction, 
receive audible cues and not botch up the musical performance.  By the 
time of performance, a prompter's audible help isn't the distraction it might ot
otherwise seem from the sound on a radio broadcast, and (often) with 
everything else going on, it may be just the jolt of help for a singer to get 
back on course when something else - not privy to us - might prove a 

My guess is that most regional U.S. companies don't have prompter boxes as
as the cast is relatively uniform throughout the course of a run . . . not mu
much changes once a show is "set."   A difference may be that major  in
international houses, e.g., The Met, often have cast members who may not 
sing more than a performance or two with each other, and a prompter can 
be the glue that holds everyone - and the whole thing - together.

I don't fret at the sound of a prompter listening to a radio broadcast.  
Actually, when attending live performances, I'm generally more upset at 
audience members talking, the odd cell phone going off, excessive 
coughing, fidgeting, over-perfuming, late arrivals, program rustlers, cough 
drop unwrappers, the guy who snores and the occasional fart than I am at 
a firm voiced prompter.


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