NYC Opera Unplugged

Friday, October 23, 2009

The David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center will lose its sound-enhancement system for live voices in time for November 5, when the New York City Opera opens its season, according to The New York Times.

The sound system was initially installed in 1999 to muffle the sounds of dance jumps and footsteps on stage. The New York City Opera shares the stage with the New York City Ballet, The Times reported.

But now the theater is being renovated, and amplification has long been a hot-button issue for opera-goers.

Last year, Charles Parsonsi, an opera fan who sent his thoughts on amplification to Opera News Online, said he'd been called a technology "Luddite" for saying opera should be staged unplugged.

"The chief glory of opera has always been the unamplified human voice, projected to theater-filling proportions," Parsonsi wrote to Opera News. "Will classical singers become so dependent on amplification that their art will be on a par with that of Broadway musical performers?"

Parsonsi added he was concerned about the person controlling the amplification, and asked, "Who's in control of the balance in an amplified opera performance? What happens when a conductor turns that portion of his or her job over to a technician?"

Other opera lovers don't mind amplification, including John Rockwell, a blogger for ArtsJournal.

"Opera singers are routinely adjusted electronically in the recording studio...what matters in the efficacy of a supposedly big-voiced singer (e.g., Pavarotti singing Otello) are matters of attack, linguistic and stylistic idiomatic fluency, tonal weight..." Rockwell wrote in a post last year.

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Comments [3]

Mary Elizabeth Nordstrom from Kennebunk, ME

Sound enhancement for properly trained opera voices is counterproductive. If singers need it, they shouldn't be singing opera in my opinion. A good move!

Oct. 25 2009 08:58 PM
Neil Eddinger from New York City

The second paragraph of the article is completely erroneous although mildly amusing. Why would anyone install a "sound enhancement system" if they wanted to "muffle" something? The Sound system had nothing to do with the NYC Ballet and was the idea of Paul Kellogg so he could cast younger, cheaper and less experienced singers who, frankly, had not yet learned the art of projection. To be fair, the State Theater was built for ballet and not opera. On the other hand nobody ever said they had trouble hearing Beverly Sills or Plácido Domingo when they sang there in the pre "enhancement" days. As a singer who continues to perform there after 28 years I am happy that the enhancement system is being jettisoned in favor of more natural non electronic solutions.

Oct. 24 2009 06:25 PM
Paul Arents from Upper West Side

I could hear the tap-tap-tap of the dancers while watching the ballet at the Koch Theater after the sound system was installed. Hopefully now I will not hear them, only the music.

Oct. 23 2009 11:58 PM

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