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  1. #16
    Schigolch
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    As I stated very clear from my first post (it's there, for anyone that would like to read it), one thing is 20th or 21st operas, when the composer specifically requested amplified voice, or just don't care if the voice is amplified or not (there are several examples: Doctor Atomic, Angels in America, Adriana Mater,....), and other thing, the traditional repertoire, written for the operatic voice. This kind of opera, must be sung the way it was written for, with unamplified voice. There is only one way to do it right.

    And no, this thread is not about what *you* think about amplification in the opera. It's about what *everybody* (including you) think about amplification in the opera, including conductors, wagnerians and Spanish fans. Including myself, even, with first-hand experience of amplified opera performances.

    I'm well aware some theaters use sound-sytems to some effect. I don't like it, I think we should use only the operatic voice and the physical acoustics of the theater, with no electronics involved. Of course, we can make some exceptions for a particular performance. I remember now Saint François d'Assise being performed in a huge Sports Center of 20,000 seats (if you are wondering why the opera was being performed there, it was because there was a very big dome as part of the scenery, and it didn't fit in a regular theater), and there was *some* amplification. It was well balanced, and the final result was not a disaster, but this kind of things must be treated as exceptions. No reason to amplify the voice in a bona fide Opera House, unless the composer indicated otherwise.


    I've even being witness myself to volume amplification several times (in one case, it was... in Britten's The Rape of Lucretia, if you can believe it!). I've always being opposed to it, the result was always very poor, and sometimes it elicited a big response from the audience.

  2. #17
    Member Recent member Dster's Avatar
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    I think amplification is going to be more and more common , personally I am not in favour of it. Modern production is more on visual effect. Opera singers has to be good actors/actress. Less importance is placed on singing ability than say 50 years ago. People with less vocal ability can make it to the top with the help of technology.

  3. #18
    Senior Member Veteran Member Aksel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dster View Post
    I think amplification is going to be more and more common , personally I am not in favour of it. Modern production is more on visual effect. Opera singers has to be good actors/actress. Less importance is placed on singing ability than say 50 years ago. People with less vocal ability can make it to the top with the help of technology.
    I don't think so. One of the main selling points of opera today is that it is all being done without microphones, and I think it will stay that way as well. Opera singers can still fill an auditorium.

  4. #19
    Member Recent member Dster's Avatar
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    But if their look and acting ability is 'average' I think they will have a hard time breaking into the big time, evening if they have the voice of an angle.

  5. #20
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Another point, whether we realise it or not, is that modern studio CD recordings are perhaps rather distorted, if that is the right word. Microphones are placed all over the place and maybe even "guided microphones" are used to get the type of balancing and or "stereo sound" that sound engineers want to achieve when mixing together the albums. For example, the harpsichord continuo in the vast majority of period instrument forces do sound very nice, but rather loud under studio stereo recordings. Microphones are placed right at the mouths of singers and can be so very loud that a natural breathing space between voice and audience contact is missing, despite sounding brilliant in a stereo sense.

  6. #21
    Member Recent member Dster's Avatar
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    One thing for sure, there is no amplification in the ROH. I was with the guided tour yesterday we went into the auditorium. A lady singer was rehearsing accompanied by a harp on stage. Her volume was such that I could not hear what the guide said although I was less than 2m from her.

  7. #22
    Schigolch
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    This was a big incident at Teatro Real, two years ago, in a performance of Andrea Chenier, when the audience stop the performance shouting "shame!", "you are killing Opera", because there was amplification of the voices.

    Fiorenza Cedolins tried to save the day, and finally they started the performance again, without amplification. The official explanation was there was a mistake and the microphones were connected to the house amplification system. However, Marcelo Alvarez, that was singing Chenier with audible problems in his voice, retired at the intermission and was replaced by his cover.

    I was at the theater that day, and many people were really furious. Personally, I do think there was a honest mistake, and nothing else, but the incident gives you an example of what some audiences think about amplification in 19th century opera. Of course, a few days ago Ainadamar was performed, with amplification, and nobody paid notice, as it was something done with the composer's agreement.


  8. #23
    Senior Member Involved Member brianwalker's Avatar
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    I haven't given much thought to amplification yet but I would've preferred amplified voices at the Lohengrin I saw last week. I suspected the orchestra was amplified but I'm not sure, although the french horn making my fingers vibrate made me suspicious. What I do know was that the singers were more or less drowned out, and although they were, of course, audible the individual texture of the voices were intangible, it was all a blur.

    I inspected the orchestral pit during intermission and saw that there were microphones all around, but wasn't sure if they were being used or not.

    Edit: This article says that productions at the SF Opera and the Met are amplified, although subtly (supposedly).

    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    Yikes, a spirited discussion! But I like it! We need more debates here.
    On this, I decisively side with Schigolch.
    I'm just back from a Tosca at a huge open-air theater, the Santa Fe Opera, with the back and sides of the stage open to the mountains.
    Amanda Echalaz almost blew me out of my seat - and I was very far away from the stage, couldn't be farther away - with her powerful and well projected spinto voice.
    What section were you in? Were you in the mezzanine or the main floor?

  9. #24
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brianwalker View Post
    I haven't given much thought to amplification yet but I would've preferred amplified voices at the Lohengrin I saw last week. I suspected the orchestra was amplified but I'm not sure, although the french horn making my fingers vibrate made me suspicious. What I do know was that the singers were more or less drowned out, and although they were, of course, audible the individual texture of the voices were intangible, it was all a blur.

    I inspected the orchestral pit during intermission and saw that there were microphones all around, but wasn't sure if they were being used or not.

    Edit: This article says that productions at the SF Opera and the Met are amplified, although subtly (supposedly).



    What section were you in? Were you in the mezzanine or the main floor?
    First, Wagner: it is a special case. This is exactly why he wanted to bury his orchestra under the stage and then he built a whole opera house from scratch in order to achieve it (Bayreuth). A Wagner orchestra is a powerful thing, and singers able to cut through it are not exactly widely available. So most likely what was going on is that the conductor wasn't holding down his forces, or the singers weren't able to project over the orchestra, or both. Certainly these aspects are the 'make it or break it' part of many live Wagner productions, and they are notoriously difficult to get right, so, I wouldn't make of your trouble with this Lohengrin, the rule for what usually happens in opera houses producing pieces by other composers.

    I find it unlikely that the orchestra was amplified. Usually it's the opposite problem: one wants to be able to keep the orchestra with relatively low dynamics otherwise nobody can hear the singers in a Wagnerian opera. Why would they make the problem worse by amplifying the orchestra? Most likely the mikes you saw were there for other reasons (such as recordings and broadcasts) and were turned off.

    Well, the article says *erroneously* that productions at the Met are amplified, as stated by this commentator:

    "Operas at houses as traditional as San Francisco and the Met are now being amplified; "
    "Operas are NOT routinely amplified at either San Francisco or the Met, only in specific cases like Dr Atomic or if there is spoken dialog (like La Fille du Regiment) in which case the spoken dialog is amplified as opera singers aren't trained in projecting spoken speach, but the mics are turned off for music. WHY DO YOU SPREAD LIES? Someone told on the web that Met has this conspiracy and secretly amplifies, and now this lie (that Met denied repeatedly) is being repeated as fact. Do you think all of us Met opera-goers are deaf and cannot distinguish live voices from amplified voices? The sound is VERY DIFFERENT!"

    No, the Met is most definitely not amplifying singing voices outside of very specific cases like Dr. Atomic. I side with this commentator and affirm that I can tell. There is always the case of a singer who can't fill the 4,000-seat Met, proving that nobody is helping him/her, and there is also the sheer beauty of the voices of those who can, which are heard in crystalline and direct ways that definitely come from the singer's throat and not from some hidden loudspeaker.

    This is also confirmed by the second article:

    "Neither the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera, nor the San Francisco Opera use traditional, Broadway-style sound reinforcement, in which most if not all singers are equipped with radio microphones mixed to a series of unsightly loudspeakers scattered throughout the theatre. “We don't amplify the onstage singers,” states Rob Gorton, sound engineer at the Metropolitan Opera. “It constantly surprises me how many people think that we amplify.”

    What is being said here is that the occasional off-stage singer may get some enhancement because with the modern thick scenery the voice wouldn't filter to the public. This is fine. It's absolutely not the same thing. And of course the house is equipped for sound effects which are required by some composers of contemporary operas. But this is definitely not the same as sticking a radio-microphone under a singer's wig or costume. No, the Met doesn't do it, and hopefully won't ever do it. Hell, they even say that not even small children get amplified (since composers will often quiet down the orchestra when these characters are singing; and they sing usually in high soprano territory which is easier to carry over the orchestra).

    Now, about this assertion that regional opera houses are using it more and more, I doubt it even more strongly since these houses are smaller and one wouldn't need it anyway in these circumstances. The three regional houses I'm in very close contact with and where I routinely go backstage and around stage before and after the performance most definitely don't use amplification.

    About Santa Fe, I was in the mezzanine. And again, while Amanda could fill the whole house with her powerful voice even in unfavorable acoustic conditions of an open-air theater (Leah Crocetto could as well, at the same house another evening), some of her peers couldn't. So, why would they only amplify Amanda's voice, and not her peers'? It makes no sense. No, very fortunately, our opera houses are still sticking with the purity of the operatic voice, as far as I know. If they don't, I'll be very disappointed.

    Now, what is this thing of saying that people have stereos in their cars and expect something loud and powerful from the singers therefore they're disappointed at the opera house? I mean, if people can't see the difference between their car stereos and the opera house acoustics, and can't enjoy the beauty of the operatic singer's voice on stage, what the hell are they doing there anyway? They should stay in their cars. They don't deserve to be there, dammit!

    There is NOTHING more beautiful in the world of vocal music than a live performance of a good operatic singer in a decent opera theater with reasonable acoustics. ANY substitute for this is an inferior product. This is not to be nostalgic or anything, it's just sheer fact. That directness of the sound from the singer's throat to the listener's ear just can't be reproduced by any kind of electronic equipment. First of all, there is the purity of the acoustic experience. Second, there is the goose-bumping connection between the artist and the art form lover. No, it can't be faked. Like I said, people who can't hear the difference don't deserve to be there! Broadway is just a few blocks south of the Lincoln Center; they should go there instead.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); November 13th, 2012 at 03:51 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  10. #25
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    I have pulled up You Tube videos of some operas and as soon as I saw the microphones on the sides of the singers faces, I killed the video and moved on. My personal feeling is that it it is amplified, it is no longer opera, but becomes a musical.
    Since that night at the Polka, I don't understand you, Sheriff.
    --Ashby, La Fanciulla del West

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  12. #26
    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Florestan View Post
    I have pulled up You Tube videos of some operas and as soon as I saw the microphones on the sides of the singers faces, I killed the video and moved on. My personal feeling is that it it is amplified, it is no longer opera, but becomes a musical.
    Sometimes microphones are for recording purposes rather than for amplification but I know what you mean.
    " … if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it, and above all become passionate about it."
    Roald Dahl

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  14. #27
    Senior Member Involved Member SenaJurinac's Avatar
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    For that reason I prefer very often listening recordings made in the period 1950s - mid 1980s, so when good analogue magnetophones were already used before Karajan and Sony widely introduced digital remastering.

    A few days ago I listened to this Oberto recorded in Munich 1984 and my only comment was: wow!

    But it's similar like with the movies - I prefer those with real stunts and where airplane and ship models were used to today ones, when everything, even mass scenes are generates with computer animation: looking more like damn PlayStation games than a real thing.

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Verdi-Obert.../dp/B000028AY5

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  16. #28
    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SenaJurinac View Post
    For that reason I prefer very often listening recordings made in the period 1950s - mid 1980s, so when good analogue magnetophones were already used before Karajan and Sony widely introduced digital remastering.
    A few days ago I listened to this Oberto recorded in Munich 1984 and my only comment was: wow!

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Verdi-Obert.../dp/B000028AY5
    Definitely! I love my early recordings.


    Quote Originally Posted by SenaJurinac View Post
    But it's similar like with the movies - I prefer those with real stunts and where airplane and ship models were used to today ones, when everything, even mass scenes are generates with computer animation: looking more like damn PlayStation games than a real thing.
    I'm with you 100%. I don't like CGIs and consequently can't get excited about all the prequels to Star Trek and Star Wars. I love the old Cecil B. DeMille movies with thousands of extras rampaging across fields!!!
    " … if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it, and above all become passionate about it."
    Roald Dahl

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