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An Introduction

The Canadian Opera Company's Dialogues des Carmélites, 1997. Photo: D. Brian Campbell


SURTITLESTM* projections are a capsulized translation of an opera's libretto, projected onto a screen on the proscenium of the stage during a live performance. The process was developed by the Canadian Opera Company, and the first production in the world to be presented with SURTITLESTM was the COC's January 1983 staging of Elektra.

The COC's original process of SURTITLESTM projection utilized slides and slide projectors. In June, 1991, for the COC's new production of Cosě fan tutte, the process was modified to video projection. The video images are now stored on computer diskettes rather than slides to permit quick, low-cost editing and to simplify storage. Each video image consists of one surtitle corresponding to the sung text. Images are numbered and the corresponding number transferred to a vocal score, used in the operation of the video projector. Video images are projected through a General Electric LV4000 Talaria projector attached to a character generator. Translations are projected onto a medium grey screen on the proscenium of the stage and appear as white lettering on a black background.

Hailed by the Canadian Press as "the barrier-breaker opera needs to grow in the '80s," SURTITLESTM projections are a registered trademark of the COC, and are now a regular feature of the foreign-language operas presented by the Company.

Since they were pioneered by the COC, SURTITLESTM or other similar titling systems have been used by virtually every opera company in North America, and by many companies in Europe.


Alan Monk and Judith Forst in the Canadian Opera Company's Wozzeck, 1989. Photo: Gary Beechey


*SURTITLESTM are a registered Trade Mark of the Canadian Opera Company, which developed the process.