Supertitles as Warm Beer
July 10, 2008
John McWhorter makes an argument for translated operas in this New York Sun article. Personally, I don't particularly like supertitles either, especially ones in English for operas in English, but I do like hearing operas in the original language. To be fair, I do have the advantage of having studied German, Latin, and Spanish, though sometimes this does mean I become distracted by exactly how words have been rendered into English. There are also times when the titles are funny when the libretto is not, or when the ordering of the punchline in the titles is paced such that the audience laughs before the line has been sung. On the other hand, there is something appealing about operas translated into English, for instance, Pocket Opera does a fine job of this.
I recently learned that the Met titles are sometimes in languages other than English, since they are individual screens one can change the language option. I've never used the titles before, which was probably very foolish for something like War and Peace. Just the thought of Doctor Atomic in German makes me giddy, too bad this production overlaps with the San Francisco Opera season.
NY Sun Article | John McWhorter at the Manhattan Institute | Met Titles