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Photo: Lemon42
Follow along at Vienna State Opera in any of six languages with the new subtitle system.

My husband and I use the subtitle feature for DVDs we get from Netflix, even when the movies are in English. We’re not hard of hearing, but it’s so easy to miss what people are saying — especially if the film is from England and the characters speak Mumblecore.

For the oddball plots of operas, subtitles can be even more important. Consider what the Vienna State Opera has done to keep patrons from too much confusion.

Elsabeth Parkinson reports at Limelight Magazine, “The Vienna State Opera has replaced its 16-year-old seat-back system with a new setup offering opera libretti in up to six languages …

“Since the opening of the company’s 2017/2018 earlier this month, subtitles are offered from suitably dimmed screens, in English, German, Italian, French, Russian and Japanese.

“A pre-performance information system provides such useful things to know as plot synopses, cast lists, and any general current news to do with the activities of the company. Audience members are able to view a list of frequently asked questions, or subscribe to the Vienna State Opera’s monthly newsletter. …

“Several other opera companies around the world have been diversifying their sub- and super-titling options in recent years. In New York, the Metropolitan Opera has been building on their custom-designed Met Titles system since 1995, and today it offers opera translations in English, Spanish, German and Italian. Opera Australia’s annual outdoor production Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour has allowed the audience to follow along in either English or Chinese since last year. …

“ ‘It’s extremely beneficial for [tourists] to be able to read the text in the language that they’re most comfortable with,’ [Opera Australia’s Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini] said. …

” ‘The trick is making it as unobtrusive as possible, so that you don’t detract from the performance and having it in the back of the seat is a fantastic solution to that.’ ”

Implementing such a system is more difficult when opera companies don’t own their home venues, of course.

“ ‘There are only a few companies in the world that have in-seat surtitles, and to the best of my knowledge they are only offered in venues which are controlled by those companies,’ [Victorian Opera’s Managing Director Andrew Snell] says.” More at Limelight, here.

Do you enjoy opera? I don’t go as often as I’d like. I do appreciate help with text. One of the reasons I thoroughly enjoyed Resurrection, which composer Tod Machover based on a story by Leo Tolstoy, was that it had supertitles. Of course, when you use words above the stage, you really can have only one language.

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There is always something new to learn about Stonehenge, a site shrouded in mystery for centuries.

Rossella Lorenzi writes at Discovery News, “Using noninvasive technologies such as ground-penetrating radar and geophysical imaging, a team from the University of Birmingham’s IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre, known as VISTA, and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Vienna, discovered evidence of two huge pits positioned on a celestial alignment at Stonehenge. …

” ‘This is the first time we have seen anything quite like this at Stonehenge,’ said project leader Vince Gaffney, an archaeologist from the University of Birmingham. ‘When viewed from the Heel Stone, a rather enigmatic stone which stands just outside the entrance to Stonehenge, the pits effectively mark the rising and setting of the sun at midsummer days.’ ”

Read more here.

On YouTube you can find both boring videos about Stonehenge and funny ones. A comedy routine by Eddie Izzard made me laugh, but it’s a bit too naughty for Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog. You can check out a few of Spinal Tap singing “Stonehenge” in the movie This is Spinal Tap. And here is a great scene about Druids from that movie.

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