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The COC launches surtitles

The Story

What are Surtitles? "A device that finally makes it possible for ordinary people to understand what's going on onstage," says CBC-Radio reporter Danny Finkleman. Surtitles project the opera text in translation above the stage and are the Canadian Opera Company's greatest success in its mission to popularize opera. In this lighthearted report from 1983, Finkleman describes the company's creative efforts in bringing opera to the masses.

Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning
Broadcast Date: March 27, 1983
Guests: Stuart Hamilton, Michael Howell, John Leberg, Lotfi Mansouri, Dory Vanderhoof
Host: Danny Finkleman
Duration: 10:36
Surtitles logo courtesy of the Canadian Opera Company and Gunta Driefelds.

Did You know?

• The Canadian Opera Company first used its new Surtitle technology for its 1982 production of Richard Strauss's Elektra. In its 1983 season it began to use the Surtitles in every foreign-language production.

• The Surtitle system was developed by the director of operations, John Leberg, when the company was under the direction of Lotfi Mansouri.

• The Surtitles are activated manually by an operator who is following a piano score marked with caption entries and exits.

• The COC trademarked the word "Surtitle.' The technology is used widely in opera houses throughout the world.

• The introduction of Surtitles was only one of a range of initiatives by the COC to make opera more accessible in the early '80s. The COC was also offering a summer opera series of abridged operas, performed in tents where beer and food was served, and a few summers earlier they hosted a pavilion at the Caravan Festival in Toronto.

• In 1983, when this clip was broadcast, the Metropolitan Opera in New York was offering regular live television broadcasts of their productions, an initiative that had, in the words of vocal coach Stuart Hamilton, "been marvellous for opera." Since 2006, the Met has screened selected live opera productions in high definition in cinemas around the world to near sell-out audiences.




60 Years with the Canadian Opera Company more