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Further to the review of Lewis’s Winterreise in Nelson: surtitles

By , 26/02/2011

My review of the recital at Nelson at which Keith Lewis and Michael Houstoun performed Schubert’s Winterreise had overlooked what I felt at the time to be a major innovation: the use of surtitles. I have now inserted the following paragraphs in my review of 9 February.

“First, I should note an innovation that sets an admirable precedent for voice recitals: the projection of surtitles. Occasional whines are still heard about them in the opera house though I have been a wholehearted supporter from their first appearance in the late 80s. If there are plausible objections to their use in opera, however, there can be none in the recital. The decision was made to not include the words or translations in the programme, to avoid the interrupting rustle of collective page turning and the dispiriting vision, for the artists, of audience heads down during the performance. In recital, eyes do not need to be constantly on the stage watching movements, gestures, expressions; nothing is lost by raising the eyes to read the words. And the surtitle screen was of ideal size, allowing easy reading of full translations in images that were very clear.

“At the end of the concert booklets containing full German and English texts were distributed. The whole process was handled with great care and thoughtfulness.”

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