Yesterday Mrs SG and I went to see a filmed telecast of a performance of Peter Grimes by the ENO (English National Opera). The tickets were much pricier than for an ordinary film, even though the production cost must be much lower – after all, the live audience is paying to see the show and the telecast just involved setting up a few cameras.
The singing, acting and staging were superb, as one would expect from the ENO. But we could understand no more than one word in twenty. They might as well have been singing in Swahili.
Opera singers are trained to use their voices like musical instruments, to produce beautiful sounds and express emotion. This apparently precludes clear enunciation of words. So I will contact the cinema and suggest that in future they ask for copies of such films that have English subtitling.
In fact Mrs SG and I often turn on the subtitles when we’re watching TV, especially during American shows which have more shooting than singing. So I reckon operas should always, always have subtitles or surtitles. Does anyone agree with me?