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Subject: LaScala Acoustics
From: William A Fregosi <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:William A Fregosi <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 30 Jun 1999 08:00:31 EDT
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I don't think Albert Innaurato requires a great deal of defense from such as
me on his fascinating La Scala article, but I will put in one point concerning
Mr. Peres' current assertion that there are no acoustical problems with that
opera house.

Let us begin by understanding that, save for some of the surviving Greek and
Roman stone amphitheater-style theaters, truly perfect, trouble-free acoustics
don't really exist in any theater, certainly not one with a proscenium stage
recessed back away from the seating area.  Almost all theaters have dead spots
or echos or imbalance between orchestra and stage SOMEWHERE within their
walls.  The problem can be exacerbated by the type of scenery used in a produc-
tion and its configuration, construction materials, etc.  Horseshoe shaped
Italian(ate) opera houses have more than their fair share of visual and acous-
tic problems by the very nature of their basic form.  Some are much better than
others and a few come close to brilliance--at least in the majority of seats.
But none is perfect.

I believe it was Mr. Innaurato who once penned the wonderful line that he had
"pubesced at the opera."  A number of us did--I got hooked at around age seven
and started going to the old MET at age ten or so.  I also read voraciously
everything I could get my hands on concerning the art form that would play
such a vital role in my life--I chose my career (no voice, but I COULD design
those wonderful productions I was so fascinated by) and have made innumerable
other choices in my life because of opera.  One of the things I was caught by
very early were descriptions of the quirks of individual opera houses.  Word
gets out about rehearsals and singers' demands on directors to be placed on
certain spots on the stage during key moments of their roles.  I read that,
the size and brilliance of his voice notwithstanding, del Monaco would not
under any circumstances sing the "Esultate" from OTELLO anywhere but on the
well-known "sweet spot" of the La Scala stage, fearing the many dead spots he
knew about.  There were stories, too, about other singers, canny veterans
who knew that the great theater could cradle or swallow their voices depending
on where they delivered their big moments.

The old MET had the same problems.  In her book, Margaret Webster tells of
being instructed by singers where she had to place them on the stage when
directing productions to put them in decent acoustical relation to the audi-
ence.  By the time she directed SIMON BOCCANEGRA, she knew just where to place
Leonard Warren for "Plebe, patrizi!"--and nowhere else.

Albert/Emma/Mary/Maria, et al.: thanks for part one and I look forward with
great anticipation to part two.

Bill Fregosi
[log in to unmask]

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