Surtitles (or supertitles) were first introduced in the 1980s. If you believed the reaction from critics at the time, the end of the world was not only nigh, but had arrived. The reaction from audiences has generally been less apocalyptic and indeed largely favourable.
Over thirty years later, one would have thought the debate largely over and won by the surtitle brigade. But are we about to revert to the old days? Probably not – I can’t imagine an opera management anywhere ready to upset either its public or, more likely, its sponsors. But it is probably worthwhile asking the question again.
US commercial classical station WQXR invited Fred Ploktin, writer, opera-expert and in the wary-of-surtitles camp, and Cori Ellison, Dramaturg of the UK’s Glyndebourne Festival Opera and a great supporter of surtitles, to revisit the arguments for and against.
You can read their views at these links: