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Surtitles, also known as supertitles, are translated or transcribed dialogue projected above a stage or displayed on a screen, commonly used in opera or other musical performances. The word "surtitle" comes from the French language "sur", meaning "over" or "on", and the English language word "title", formed in a similar way to the related subtitle. The word Surtitle is a trademark of the Canadian Opera Company.

Surtitles are used either to translate the meaning of the lyrics into the audience's language, or to transcribe lyrics that may be difficult to understand in the sung form. The two possible types of presentation of surtitles are as projected text, or as the electronic libretto system. Titles in the theatre have proven a commercial success in areas such as opera, and are finding increased use for allowing patrons with hearing impairments to enjoy theatre productions more fully. Surtitles are used in live productions in the same way as subtitles are used in movie and television productions.


Projected titles or translations

Generally projected above the theatre's proscenium arch (but, alternately, on either side of the stage), surtitles are usually displayed using a supertitling machine. The text must be prepared beforehand as in subtitles. These machines can be used for events other than artistic performances, when the text is easier to show to the audience than it is to vocalize.

Surtitles are different from subtitles, which are more often used in film and television presentations. Originally, translations would be broken up into small chunks and photographed onto slides that could be projected onto a screen above the stage, but most companies now use a combination of video projectors and computers.

Lotfi Mansouri, then general director of the Canadian Opera Company, introduced this innovation to opera in[1] their January 1983 staging of Elektra.

New York City Opera was the first American opera company to use supertitles in 1983.[2]

The surtitle is given an insertion point in the score (piano score) for the surtitle's entry and exit. An operator will push a button at the marked point when following the music.

Electronic libretto system

Surtitles can be a distraction, focusing attention on the titles instead of the stage. The electronic libretto system can solve this problem; it uses individual screens placed in front of each seat allowing patrons either to view a translation or to switch them off during the performance. New York's Metropolitan Opera installed the patented Met Titles, becoming the first house in the United States to use this system.

The Vienna State Opera uses such a system. It allows the patron to choose among several different languages.Template:Citation needed

See also


  1. "Lotfollah Mansouri." Marquis Who's Who TM. Marquis Who's Who, 2008. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2008. Document Number: K2013018226. Fee. Retrieved 27 December 2008.

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