Renée Fleming is using supratitles for her recitalsBig News! I just read (5/13/12) that Renée Fleming is using supratitles for her recitals. In a recent recital given by the soprano with pianist Hartmut Höll, as part of the Virginia Arts Festival at the Harrison Opera House, critic Shirley Thompson pointed out that using the Harrison Opera House supertitles system for the texts helped greatly, in a challenging program of Korngold, Shoenberg and Zemlinsky.

I’ve prepared a short movie to demonstrate the use of supra titles. SupraTitles Demo-part1 SupraTitles Demo-part2 SupraTitles Demo-part3

The use of supratitles for the recitalist had a demonstration which is described below. Mary Chesnut, soprano and Susan McCreary, mezzo soprano with Eric Schank, pianist, took part.

supratitles in a performance

Mary Chesnut, Erik Schank, and supratitles

Many people in the opera world calculate the renewed interest in opera to the introduction of supra titles, supratitles or surtitles which provide a translation of the singing projected usually on or above the proscenium arch.

The opera singer has the situation or story, costumes, make up, props and sets to aid the audience in understanding the words. The recitalist has no such aids. The recital singer may decide to tell the audience a few words about what is to be sung, but many singers dislike this because it changes the mood and they don’t want to speak just before singing. Providing the translations in the program means that the audience, not familiar with the language being sung, must continually look down at the program and back up at the singer. The lights must be left on in the hall to allow the audience to read the program. This has been the best solution up until now.

On 19 February 2001 we demonstrated projected translations for the vocal recitalist at the University of Hawaii’s Orvis Auditorium. An invited audience of about 40 people, some of whom were completely unfamiliar with song recitals, provided feedback after the performance. There were several objectives in the design of these supra titles. When these are used by opera houses, the equipment and screen involved are large. But we designed the components so that the itinerant recitalist would be able to carry the screen, projector and computer with the rest of the luggage. The interested presenters should be able to easily assemble these additional elements and run the titles. Technical details can be found at the conclusion of this report. At the Orvis Auditorium demonstration Mary Chesnut, soprano, sang two French songs, one in German and one in English. The mezzo soprano, Susan McCreary, sang in Spanish and both singers were supported at the piano by Eric Schank. We projected both the original language and the translation in different colors and fonts. Most of the audience appreciated seeing the original text along with the translation, though obviously this took up more space of the screen. If the original text hadn’t been projected, I don’t believe it would have been an issue. There is no need to project the original language. The goal is for the audience to understand the sense of what the original language poetry is about. It just happened that the program we used projected both the original and the translation. This option could be left to the discretion of the singer or the presenters. In the mood of experimentation, titles were also provided for the one American song for this English speaking audience. The singer didn’t find it insulting and the audience found it helpful.

From the audience reaction there were obvious advantages to some color combinations and fonts. There was some discussion about experimenting with different colors and fonts which could prove even clearer to the eyes. The audience suggested lower placement of the hanging screen (which was about five feet above the singer) and more accurate timing of the titles with the singer’s phrases. The singers were very enthusiastic about the titles, one feeling that there was better communication with the audience because she knew they understood the meaning of the texts. She also appreciated the darkened hall, as did some in the theater. A few audience members found the supra titles distracted from their concentration from the singers, while the rest were able to quickly read the translation and return their attention to the singer. The fan sound from the projector was not noticed by anyone. There was a general feeling that the uninitiated would be more likely to attend a vocal recital if the ad included the announcement of supra titles. The overall audience reaction was extremely positive and enthusiastic.


The screen: though there are portable screens made for such projections that are stretched on light-weight aluminum tubing which cost in the range of $500-$700, we opted in this demonstration to develop a temporary solution. We used 3/16 inch foam core that was 20 inches by 30 inches. Three of these panels were hinged at two joints by duct tape, making a screen 90 inches long by 20 inches wide. Bolts with hooks on them were inserted in the middle of each panel and on the ends of the screen. Thin gauge wire was attached to these hooks and other hooks were attached to the wire ends to hang the screen. There was a tendency for the panels to wave in the air and thus not to present a flat surface. To correct this, a pair of loops was glued to the back of both sides of the hinged panels and a small stick passed through to hold the panels flat. It was feared that the semi-gloss surface of the foam core wouldn’t reflect the projections well. This didn’t seem to be a problem. The complete cost of the screen was under $10 and weighed less than 5 pounds.

The projector: we were told that most high powered projectors that could be placed at the back of an auditorium made quite a lot of noise due to their fans. So we chose a small projector (In Focus LP 435 Z) frequently used in business board rooms. This kind of projector is made to link up with a computer to project digital images (essentially whatever appears on the computer monitor is projected onto the screen). A friend loaned us the projector for our week of trials and demonstration. He told us that it cost $8,000. We have been told that these projectors are coming down in price. The In Focus weighs about 10-13 pounds with the carrying case and cords. We placed it on a plank on the back of a first row seat and aimed it at almost a 45 degree angle up to the screen with the help of telephone books. Though we were warned about distortion (keystoning) it wasn’t a problem, probably because we were so close. Also there is a feature on most projectors to correct keystoning.

The computer: a Toshiba Satellite laptop which cost $1,800 was used. (This kind of laptop is much cheaper now.) The standard cord from the In Focus projector fit perfectly and when we pressed the FN and F5 buttons, our screen image (the translations) were received by the projector and thus shone on the screen. The laptop weighs about 7 pounds.

The software: in our research on supra titles, we learned that opera companies and board rooms use an “off the shelf” software called PowerPoint made by Microsoft (which comes as part of the Microsoft Office suite). We used software developed by Robert Crawford which was provided without charge.

Technical Advice from an Expert

–Yes, unsupported styrofoam definitely will wave around in the breeze. It also breaks rather easily, and looks pretty shabby after a couple of uses. That’s why most surtitle users employ a sturdy one constructed of either wood/canvas or metal tubing/canvas. Surely styrofoam is not going to stand up in the traveling?

–You seem to be under the impression that the screen will reflect more light if it is has a glossy rather than flat surface. This is not the case. In fact, there is much more danger of getting glare from a glossy screen. The best type of surface to project on is a flat white or grey surface, achievable with painted scenic cotton or a dense styrofoam.

–Regarding the software, I still recommend PowerPoint. It costs a few dollars (I’d get an actual estimate rather than depending on hearsay), but it is extremely versatile and well worth the money. As well, it is included in Microsoft Office 97 and Office 2000. Surely someone in your organization has a copy of that? The perfect software already exists with PowerPoint. There is a reason why most opera companies are using it — it does the job, and it’s not necessary to keep running back to a programmer for adjustments. Why re-invent the wheel if you have one that’s already running perfectly?

–It’s a long way from running an informal demo in a university theatre to running a professional recital in a concert hall that seats perhaps 2500 people. It’s my guess that having the InFocus sitting on a board propped up on a seat is not going to wash in the latter type of presentation. You, and not I, however, are aware of the different performing environments into which your system will be introduced, and I am sure you are already sensitive to this issue.

–For a larger venue (ie. a concert hall), you will definitely have to project from the projection booth onto a much larger screen. As I mentioned before, the stage (and orchestra or piano) will have to be miked so that program sound can be piped into the booth.

–Also, I doubt that the brightness intensity of the InFocus [the projector that we used] will suffice in a larger venue, not to mention the resolution. I’m guessing it’s only 800 x 600 pixels. Am I wrong? As well, you are definitely going to need a long-throw zoom lens to get the lines of text onto the screen.

–Here are some sample parameters below for you to look at. This would be using the Sharp NV6XU projector (brightness = 2200 lumens, resolution =1024 x 768 pixels) AND a specific long-throw zoom lens (focal length range 5.2-8.7″) from Buhl Optical.

Column “T” is the “throw”, or distance from projector to screen; column “WPI” is the width of projected image; column “RSW” is recommended screen width; column “RSH” is recommended screen height; column “ESA” is estimated size of audience assuming a full house.


25′ 2.8-4.8′ 4′ 0.5′ 100 (est.)

50′ 5.7-9.6′ 8′ 1.0′ 400 (est.)

75′ 8.6-14.4′ 12′ 1.5′ 800 (est.)

100′ 11.5-19.2′ 16′ 2.0′ 1400 (actual theatre)

125′ 14.4-24.0′ 20′ 2.5′ 2000 (est.)

150′ 17.2-28.8 24′ 3.0′ 2400 (actual theatre)

The last column is a big “?” other than for the two actual real theatres shown. This is because the theatre architecture can be so different for two theatres having the same seating capacity, which affects how close an audience member is to the screen.

I hope you are NOT going to project the foreign text as well as the translation! In my opinion this is not necessary. At the very least, you will tire the audience out reading. “Less is more” is also applicable in this case, I think.

Ray Chesin. Director Aria Nuova Presentations 1902 Shotbolt Rd. Victoria, BC V8S 2K9 Tel 250-595-8755 Fax 250-595-8710 E-mail: Web site:



Audience (email) reaction, the first from a German speaking Austrian woman who is a classical music enthusiast, the second from an American woman with little exposure to classical music.

You have created (I believe) the key to making the “Lied” more accessible for music lovers, who heretofore were unable to truly experience the Lied as a total Kunstwerk. I have to disagree with some of the comments made last night – for instance that you distract from the music by following the text. Why have words if you don’t care what is said? –Being as most of the lyrics are based on poems – standing on their own two feet, chosen by the composers because they express their feelings and thoughts connected to the mood set by the poems – how can you disregard this ? Your technical solution – I found was very good – I liked the very first (French) text panel – the script was clear and easy to read – I think colors only distract -after all you want to underplay the importance of the super titles. I still think that the type size should be larger for the real language and smaller for the translation. It seems to me that you scan the translation quickly and then revert to the actual words sung. Yes – the panel should be a little lower but still above the stage and not on the back wall. I certainly enjoyed the text for the English song and immediately felt lost when the English words disappeared from the screen – but maybe that’s just my problem. (Ed.: This occurred when phrases were repeated.)

It was very interesting to me what you said about Marilyn Horne’s efforts to make the content of the song clearer to the audience and that she only gave up the idea for physical reasons. What is the Finish project – similar to yours? How dare they……PLEASE CHARGE AHEAD!

(Ed.: Here the woman is referring to the fax dated 12 February 2001 that we received from Jorma Hynninen in which he reported that “we are going to use supra titles at the Sibelius Academy in April in a Dichterliebe recital. It will be done at the chamber music hall of 200 seats. Translations will be pojected on the wooden wall, behind the performers. Translations must be seen well, but not too “aggressive”, so the white screen is probably disturbing. The main consideraiton of audience should be in the performers. A skillful Lied duo doesn’t only sing and play, they are telling the story too. –To understand, what the singer sings–tells–is very important. To follow translations from the program booklet is usually impossible during the performance. You can’t see well enough and reading disturbs your consentratioin. Of course the projector must be absolutly silent. –I believe very much that supra titles could be a great help in Lied recitals. Maybe even more than in opera performance? –I’ll tell you about our experiences after our recital in April.”

Here is a second email response to the Orvis Auditorium demonstration:

A few more comments -1. As a novice art song listener, I was confused and concerned when the surtitles disappeared, and this made me stop listening to the singer. I would guess that only singers and sophisticated audiences with trained ears would realize this was intentional. If you had announced this was going to happen, and why, it would have alleviated my concern – but I would still prefer to see the titles even during repeated phrases.

2. I liked the height positioning of the banner. It was far enough away from the singer that had I NOT wanted to look at it, it would have been easy to ignore and would not have distracted me – which your sophisticated listeners may do. If it were lower/closer to the singer, I think it would be more of a distraction, and harder to ignore.

3. Although I voted for the simplicity of black and white, I meant to add that it is important that there be a distinction between the two languages, and if this has to be done with color, that is ok, as long as it is not garish. I like the choice of 2 sized fonts. I would prefer sans-serif fonts, I think they are easier to read at a distance.

4. I liked the phrasing as you had it, and would NOT want longer phrases displayed. You seemed to strike exactly the right balance between displaying what the singer was capable of in one breath, and something that was a fast read and therefore freed up my eyes to go to the singer. Anything longer up there would have made it harder to give my focus to the singer. I have to say that this dramatically improved my enjoyment of art song performance – made it approachable for me. Although people who already appreciate art song seem less likely to warmly embrace the change, if your aim is to expose art song to people who are not aware of it, to new audiences, this is definitely the way to do it.


Dear Listers, I am the one who initiated the supra titles for the song recitalist thread and I appreciate the reactions, positive and negative. It is easy to understand why one might react negatively: the attention should be focused on the singer and all he/she does. There is no disagreement about that. The truth of the situation is that people do not take the time to learn the meaning of the poetry in advance and thus generally rely on written translations during the performance. That’s the way it is. Without that, they have no idea what’s happening. Remember that in today’s recitals we are likely to hear five different languages. Even in recitals sung decades ago two or three languages were not uncommon. There is bound to be a lot of meaning lost, even assuming that the avid listener prepares by reading the translations in advance. And the singers are thrilled. They LIKE the idea that their audience knows what they are singing about. The communication seems really complete. It is not as though they know a secret (language) to which the audience has no clue. It WOULD be best if the audience spoke all the languages or studied the poetry and translations thoroughly in advance. I have yet to see this happen. This is the only solution that I can invent to help the situation. Your suggestions for alternatives and improvements will be greatly appreciated. Many thanks, Gary Hickling

Am I the only lister who thinks this is a very bad idea? I’m not entirely sure. On the one hand, there’s the issue of the noise of rustling programs, on the other hand there is that aspect of visual distraction. Of course, in an ideal world, we would all be fluent in the language of the recital, and familiar with its poetic forms, thus making ourselves able to just enjoy a recital sans distraction. However, Utopia is a rat, and so it’s not really a good idea to give a recital without translations. Whether those are provided on programs (in paper) or as super titles is the issue to discuss, really. I think I prefer paper programs (yes, surprising perhaps from a geek-girl like myself) as those,can be read at one’s leisure. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled Soubrette.nattie

I think it’s important to remember that the experience of listening to music live is completely different to the experience of listening to recordings. There is no way one young ever can get as in depth an insight into a recital of unfamiliar material as you would from repeated listenings and reading of texts. So in recital you go for the interaction. I was very interested to read Danielle Woerners’s ideas on this as a performer – perhaps other singers on this list too, can comment on what it feels like in front of an audience and how they get feedback? What do singers pick up on from the audience?- do they respond when they feel the audience is with them ? There’s a lot to be said for performances in tiny venues – even if the performer might not be brilliant enough to attract mass audiences this can be compensated by the greater interaction and rapport, which is precious. This said, live recital gives us an opportunity to respond to something quite different from what we respond to when listening to CD’s. Personally I don’t even attempt to understand new material in any sort of depth – it’s the immediacy and emotional impact that matters to me at that point. There’s no way I could ever imagine understanding, say, Finnish song, to the depth it deserves from anything other than studying a CD. So when I go to a recital, I don’t try – I just absorb the emotion and the sound pictures. It might not be brainy and of course I miss out on lots. But there’s plenty of time for an in depth work later, and the magic of truly listening remains with you, and affects your later study. We are so used to listening to recordings that we forget that for the greater part of the western musical tradition, people knew music from live performance – they didn’t hear pieces as often as we do with our instant access and “repeat play” buttons. For them most performances were somewhat unfamiliar, especially of course, premieres. They reacted to what they felt at that point and perhaps they enjoyed the experience to the full, knowing that they might not hear a piece again. We are spoiled nowadays because we are probably used to a higher general level of talent than people in the past would have been whose non concert experience may often have been limited to friends and family – no “great artists” for the most part. We are also more blasé – we expect the live experience to be sort of “CD in the round”. But it’s not. Younger people (and some older) are more open minded and less tied to a text/paper based environment. Lieder is a living form (to me anyway) and I feel that anything which enhances the medium is worth exploring. There will always be people who don’t like new things, but certainly this idea sounds interesting – I don’t know how I’d react, but I’d love to try. Anne

The problem is that making “innovations” in the delivery of art song recitals in an effort to attract a new audience may work or it may fail. I don’t think anyone knows exactly why people don’t attend recitals, so it’s a gamble whenever someone says: “If you only change X, more people will come.” The other face of this is the genuine risk that the people who now attend recitals will be turned off by the innovations and decide to stay home. The result may be a smaller audience, not a bigger one. I think singers have to ask themselves whether they would rather learn to put up with having more light in the concert hall and people’s heads looking down at the program or whether they would prefer to sing to empty seats. When I attend recitals at Alice Tully Hall or Carnegie Hall in NYC, there is always sufficient light to read the texts if one has a mind to. The same has been true in Munich, Feldkirch, Salzburg, or wherever else in Europe I have heard song recitals. True, the overwhelming rustle when everyone in the audience turns the page at once is little short of amazing, but one learns to live with it. It would also help if singers would do everything possible to let concert, managements know well in advance what their program will be and insist that it be published in a timely fashion. Some people really would prepare, in advance if they could. In fact, they would be pleased to do it. I am told by acquaintances in Japan that this happens regularly there. Why not here? Celia

I’m finding the split of opinions on this topic very interesting. Personally, at the relatively limited number of art song recitals I’ve attended to date, I’ve really hated it when they turned the lights all the way down. What good are all those lovely texts and translations in the program book if I can’t read them? I can try to skim through before the concert starts, memorizing as much as possible, or just getting the gist of what each song’s about…. But what I really love about songs are the subtleties of the texts and musical settings; the little nuances along the way, as words and music interact; the details–so what good is a vague synopsis, or a faulty and rapidly fading memory? I would have thought performers would prefer an audience to know precisely what’s being sung, and to be really listening to and following the words (in my experience, being able to follow the translation line by line helps me to listen carefully–whereas if I’ve only read a synopsis, I,tend to tune out the details and just focus on the general tone, or else keep trying to listen closely and being frustrated at what’s not clear or, at lines I can’t decipher). But Danielle Woerner and others say it’s distracting to the performers to have the lights on…and the performers would rather you be watching them carefully, engrossed in the facial expressions and gestures, rather than listening carefully (hopefully) and understanding all the words (with noses buried in program books)? That surprises me, but I guess I can see the point. (Something about appreciating and enjoying the thing itself, as it’s happening, and not being so caught up in the representations and reproductions and annotations and other symbols and intermediaries….) I don’t know. I guess, as others have said too, the ideal is for each member of the audience to know each and every song–in detail–in advance. Or at least to be fluent speakers of the language(s) involved….But that doesn’t happen very often, does it? So how best to compromise and make do? Thanks to everyone, especially the pros, for the interesting discussion so far. David Danoff

I have written to Gary to ask him more about this. Would definitely like to try it myself. Steven Chung wrote: Not only by providing a visual distraction to those in the audience who -do- know the words, but by cultivating audiences who rely on approximate visual translations and not the words themselves as sung. Over the long term, I fear the death of diction. There is no more distracting setting for a concert than 1) lights on so people can read programs (and meanwhile BTW look around the house too), 2)people with their eyes buried in programs following two columns of text and translation instead of able to watch the singer’s face and body, 3) rustling of programs. Besides, over the immediate, never mind the long, term I fear the death of the song recital, period – as I have communicated recently in another post/thread, “W(h)ither the art song recital?” Our culture is in the process of moving from a linear, printed-word culture to one which embraces multi-media. (There have been some fascinating essays on how this indicates a fundamental paradigm shift from a masculine/linear spiritual age to a feminine /non-linear one, but we won’t get into a millennial “return of the Goddess” discussion here.) IN any case, there is no turning back the clock, I believe — Marshall MacLuhan (sp?) was quite prescient in his 1960s theories that the medium itself was becoming the message. Notice how opera companies now only cast singers who don’t *look* the part in the difficult-to-cast roles and heavy Wagnerian-size repertoire. I am a lover of words, and have always been a purist about including original texts and translations side-by-side in programs. But at lister Bruce Rameker’s recent Rialto Ensemble concert, they used just brief translations of the gist of each aria or duet, a sentence or two long, and while as a listener/looker I missed the nuances of some lines that I couldn’t “hear” fast enough in Italian, I was much more engaged in what there was to see on stage than I would normally have been. Rialto also recognizes that ours is a culture where people are looking for more complete “entertainment,” hence their semi-staging of programs. I used to think it meant people were becoming more stupid, or at least more poorly educated, to need “eye candy” to bring them into classical music performances. Now I think differently, at least some of the time. We are losing certain things, no question: who learns much about poetry OR classical music in school? Kids aren’t necessarily being taught to grow out of having the attention span of a fruit fly. But I think our brains are literally learning to make different kinds of synaptic connections in this new multi-media age, and what we gain if we also adapt is a different kind of appreciation of art and music, an ability to have an experience that comes in, or at least appears to come in, more globally, more simultaneously through all the senses. It’s a different kind of attention training, as it were, and it creates a different kind of demand of those of us who want to bring either culture or entertainment to an audience. Supra titles are one of the factors bringing more people to the opera house. If an art song audience occasionally laughs too soon at a funny line, or glances up from the stage to the title (rather than having to completely re-focus their eyes from near to far vision) it’s a small price to pay for the possibility that more people will find this exquisite art form “accessible” enough to actually attend a concert. It doesn’t mean they are rubes. It means they are interested — and paying money to come in. Since chamber music series presenters often say that people will stay away in droves if they present a singer, I’ll be especially interested to see how the presenters respond to this possibility of making art song recitals seem less arcane, more approachable.

The recent comments on being prepared before the concert are well taken but unfortunately not likely to ever be a practicality. The majority of attendees would probably not bother to do that. -And, the ones of us who would wish to be appropriately prepared are unable to – due to the fact that most venues do not publish programs prior to the concert date. As to the problem of rustling program books, this is always an annoyance-but this is often caused by poor printing layout in the program. John

On 3/1/01 Gary Hickling wrote: It WOULD be best if the audience spoke all the languages or studied the poetry and translations thoroughly in advance. I have yet to see this happen. I would certainly want to experience at least a couple of recitals with supra titles–from on stage as accompanist, and from out front–before passing judgment. The ideal, I think, is the kind of transparency that comes from the audience knowing the language being sung (and the singer’s diction being intelligible.) Thus rather than just a summary of what’s going on in the text (“fisherman roils water and thus succeeds in catching trout”) the audience gets the meaning of each word at the same instant that they hear how the composer has set it and how the performer sings it. I suppose this could be called (at the risk of sounding a bit pretentious) a matching of semantic to musical meaning. Since that can’t be achieved in a polyglot program (especially with a monoglot audience), anything that gets us nearer to the ideal, without causing additional difficulties, is welcome. A printed program can only achieve this effect if it has the original and the translation side by side; even then the audience member has to try to read both “in parallel” while hoping to attend to the words and their meaning as the music is going on: a tricky business. So the practical question is whether supra titles are more “transparent”, and at what cost–a question that I think can only be answered empirically.–best, jvb

How depressing it is to see rows of people with their noses in their programs oblivious to the actual performance happening in front of them. Because they are following the program line by line they don’t actually listen as intently, they don’t pick up the nuances in the atmosphere. The collective turning of pages is disturbing, too. It must be tough for performers to try to emote with lights glaring in their eyes, before a sea of bent heads whose attention may be elsewhere. One of the pleasures of live performance for me anyway, is the feeling of interaction, and of involvement with the performance. There is something special about becoming immersed in a performance, picking up on non-verbal clues, trying to understand how the performer feels. Performance is creative, it’s more than just sounds and words. With an unfamiliar program it’s important to bone up on the text beforehand, or in the interval, and during the actual performance focus on how the performer attains the ideas in the text. Perhaps this isn’t scientific, but it’s fun. The memory of the effect the performance had on you informs your in depth listening to CD’s at a later date. Supra titles at least keep the audience focused on the stage. If a listener’s attention wanders onto the stage instead – well, that’s really why they attended in the first place ! Anne

On Thu, 1 Mar 2001, Steven Chung wrote: Am I the only lister who thinks this is a very bad idea? Not only by providing a visual distraction to those in the audience who -do- know the words, but by cultivating audiences who rely on approximate visual translations and not the words themselves as sung. Over the long term, I fear the death of diction.

This may have happened in opera to some extent already, but it’s not as vital to the survival of the art. There’s richer accompaniment in opera, not to mention lots of spectacle and longer dramatic structures…I don’t like the idea because I don’t like anything that provides a distraction from the music. I’d rather have the houselights a bit higher so that those who want to can read along in their program. Celia

Hi, listers, I would like to add a comment on the supra-title issue. Last night I attended a concert by Emmanuel Music in Boston, with two Bach cantatas (BWV 199 Mein Herze schwimmt in Blut and BWV 82 Ich habe genug), sung by Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and “staged” by Peter Sellars. My German is very poor, so I quickly read the texts before the concert started fearing (correctly) that there’d be no light during the performance. I thus knew the gist of the text, but I couldn’t really understand what was being sung. Titles would have been very useful; Sellars’s stagings, which I strongly disliked and which I feel added nothing to the works, had Ms. Hunt Lieberson in what seemed like a battle to the death with her costume (BWV 199) and wearing a hospital gown and in some kind of ecstatic relationship with a blinding light bulb (God?) in BWV 82. I kept wondering if titles might have helped to make some sense of this “choreography”; it’s a wonder that Ms. Hunt Lieberson could produce such very fine singing during the ordeal. Alejandro Milberg, Boston, MA

Sounds like a great idea and experiment to me! I, too, like the idea of a darkened room as my best experience with lieder appeared in a small room lit only with candles. The foam core contraption is a great, simple idea that anyone could do. You might write up your description of how to make it and post it on the website for downloading by students/presenters. Should be worth an article in some of the vocal teaching/performance magazines, inc. Opera World, etc. Power Point is widely used (my sister uses it). But Filemaker Pro would also work as you can click on a “flip chart” for each phrase and pop it up easily. If the projector gives out a round light source that is too large, consider putting a piece of tape across top and bottom of the outer lens area so the light streams through a horizontal band. This is quite a fascinating development in the history of art song! Judy S.

Dear Gary, That sounds terrific. All the problems which were alluded to were ones that I thought might happen. The technical ones like the type and placement of the screen, projector, etc. can be solved easily, but the sequencing and timing of the titles would seem to me the most important and hardest to solve. I would think that there has to be a person who has the music in front of them, or who knows the songs should physically activate them at the right tempo and progression. Actually, it doesn’t have to be too difficult if it is somehow computerized and timed. I think that there is someone at the Met, etc. who does this in person during each performance, even though they are computerized. In case there is a longer delay because of applause, or strange pause or whatever, this person activates the progression. Do you know Frank (name?) Rizzo who used to be head of Wash. Opera and now devotes himself to the supratitles at the Met, etc.? I can’t think of his first name at this moment, but someone like that might be worth consulting. Maybe you have already. Expensive? Anyway, those are my thoughts of the moment. I think of Lotte at this time because my birthday was/is the 22nd and we used to share birthday cards. Cheers, Marni

BRILLIANT idea, should do a great deal to attract and hold audiences, especially young people. BRAVO GARY!! Ann

Gary, It’s a very interesting idea but I think you would need to try the same audience using written translations for half the program and the supratitles for the other to get a comparison. As a traveling singer, the weight and cost of the equipment would be a severe deterrent if I had to provide it. The thought of it missing the plane connections, etc would be unsettling too. If all presenters had such equipment, great but that seems unlikely. However, it definitely seems worth pursuing. Best, Paul

At 15:19 2001-03-02 -0600, Natalie Mayer wrote: I’m not entirely sure. On the one hand, there’s the issue of the noise of rustling programs, on the other hand there is that aspect of visual distraction … not really a good idea to give a recital without translations. Whether those are provided on programmes (in paper) or as supertitles is the issue to discuss, really. I think I prefer paper programmes (yes, surprising perhaps from a geek-girl like myself) as those can be read at one’s leisure. The nice thing about paper programs is that you can take them home with you afterwards and stuff them into the drawer that’s spilling over with all the translations of all the songs you ever heard on anybody’s recital! The problem of rustling page-turns can be dealt with, more or less, by seeing that the complete song — ideally the complete group — appears on one page. This can take a lot of fiddling with fonts and spacing, and of course you may not be the person responsible for layout. Still, it’s one practical approach. As for whether translations per se distract from the overall impact of a recital, I would say they probably do if the audience is buried in them, expecting to receive the full effect of music and words *simultaneously*. But this is hardly a realistic expectation, is it? We all know that the absorption of a song, the making it our own, takes place over the course of repeated listening. In some of these learning/listenings our attention will be focused on the voice; in others, on the piano; in others, on the text; in still others we will be considering these elements in different combinations. The thing is, each member of the audience is likely to be at a different point in the listening adventure, so it is necessary to provide as many tools as possible (such as texts and translations), figuring that not everyone will be taking advantage of them at a given concert. Didn’t Schoenberg or somebody make a practice of playing every piece on a program twice? That’s something I would like to see catch on. It would speed the process of getting to know the music, and work against the terrible notion that we’ve been short-changed if we can’t suck every single bit of enjoyment out of a first listening. Lynn