Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mic-Free in NYC

When New York City Opera opens its 2009-10 season this weekend in the newly-renovated and renamed David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center (formerly known as the New York State Theater), things will sound a little different to audiences. The voice amplification system that was added to the theater in 1999 has been removed; now operagoers will only hear the singers’ live, unfiltered voices. (Via Robin Pogrebin on New York Times' “Arts Beat” column)

Opera fans, do you enjoy the amplification-free sound of operatic voices that you hear at Seattle Opera and other companies? Would it impact your experience or enjoyment to listen to those voices if they were amplified? Is it strange for you to attend other theatrical performances where the performers use microphones?


  1. I love the " Natural" sound that I get at the Seattle Opera. I have been so impressed that even though my season seats are " up a bit" we never miss a thing. I wonder if that experience would be different in a hall of lesser quality where the hall does not help with voice projection. I know that I have attended other vocal performances where the aid was needed and it was not quite the same. I think it feels "less live" if there is such a thing.
    Just my thoughts.

  2. One of the joys of opera is hearing the unamplified human voice. There is something spine tingling about sitting in McCaw Hall and hearing someone like Stephanie Blyth or Greer Grimsely fill the hall with sound - having amplification would take away this experience.

  3. I'm totally and completely against amplification for opera. I think the balance and nuance get lost in the amplification, and it ends up sounding more like a recording (which I can listen to at home). The natural power of the voice is one of the things that I love about opera.

  4. If the voices were amplified, I wouldn't go - experiencing such astonishing human voices unmediated by technology is the very reason I attend. I am a season subscriber for over ten years now and most every time I attend it is the unmediated voices that elevate my spirit while sending chills down my spine!

  5. Opera has thrived for years without amplification. For the most part, it was composed with natural amplification (bodies and acoustics) in mind. Singers are trained to produce sound and act without amplification, and if we don't ask too much of them, they are able to do this without injury. I'm a purist, and I'm quite opnionated!

  6. God (and Seattle Opera) forbid that amplification ever be used in its performances!!!!!
    Here, in Schwerin, Germany, where I live most of the year, peformances in the Staatstheater are not amplified; however, we do have open-air performances in our Sommer Festspiele, where amplification is used (2500 seats in open air), and the sound is often horrible!!
    Win H.

  7. Actually it's pretty obvious that Seattle Opera does use amplification! For instance the "snore" of Somnus in Semele. How do you snore for 2000 people without a body mic? And objects thrown in a certain part of the stage sound loud whereas when they fall elsewhere they are silent. And Musetta breaking the mic in their last Boheme.

    My father put it well when he said years ago they were using amplification because their Siegfried sounded stronger than Loritz Melchior at the met. Now some Seattle patriots willingly accept that people like Greer Grimsley are better than Loritz Melchior. I don't believe that. He doesn't even sound like a baritone, his voice is all one color. Delavan did Scarpia at SF at about the same time, and you could hear him shifting gears. Even the greatest singers in the world don't dominate the orchestra the way people do at Seattle Opera, and it's a form of cheating to use amplification, whether it's for HD as the met does or to boost up the kid shepherd as even Seattle Opera would admit they did in Tosca.

    And they definitely have a feed from the stage. So who's using body mics at Seattle Opera? Stephanie Blythe, Greer Grimsley et al. they don't have legitimate voices that would carry in a big house without body miking.