It’s above my head (what isn’t?) but does this mean that Vienna State Opera uses microphones in their performances? I thought maybe they were talking about broadcasts or using microphones for the backstage monitors, but there’s this:

In addition to the protagonists in the individual recitals, there is another star of the stage that faithfully transmits the performance to the auditorium

I’m not one who thinks using a microphone is a bad thing. Some houses are so darn large, and some orchestrations so darn thick, that a mic can really help. As long as I can’t tell it’s being used. (I’ve been to some operas where they used microphones and the only reason I knew is because I knew, not because I heard.)

I’m only blogging about this because I keep hearing that “real opera doesn’t use microphones”.



  1. If technology can be used to enhance the audience’s experience why not? But now I’ll throw in a caveat – it has to be done well. That reminds me of the reaction I would get just about every time I told someone I played the horn – if they knew what it was, they would say something like “Oh, I love the sound of the French horn.

    When it’s played right…”

  2. To me mics are kind of like the makeup … if we can see the stuff, it’s too much. (of course we in the PIT can see it … I’m talking about the audience)

    So if they mic and no one knows, no problem! (I know some rather well known houses – not in this area – use microphones … orchestra members have filled me in … and the audience doesn’t know.)

  3. In the AZ Opera they have been using microphones for years. The sound is blended into the house mix to compensate for poor acoustics in the 2 halls we perform in. In some cases singers are miked with those flesh-colored mikes hidden in the hairlines of the wigs. This especially true in “operettas” like Fledermaus and Mikado where the dialogue needs an extra boost.

    The mix is also pumped into the dressing area for the chorus and soloists to hear what is going on.

  4. Is AZ Opera supposed to be a secret, or does everyone already know?

    We have monitors backstage and of course in the dressing rooms, but we don’t have to amplify for the audience; we have a smaller hall and I’ve been told it sounds great out there. I wish we had monitors in the pit, though. Sometimes we really can’t hear the singers well at all. Sigh.

  5. Let’s see, the last time I played Flittermouse was at SCU (Mayer theater, oh, sorry “theatre”), IIRC, and we were backstage (I hate that) and I had a cold. I have no idea if microphones were in use, but I remember that the stupid Kalmus parts had the horn part written out where everyone else had endings, as discovered in rehearsal, and the measure numberings were Not Consistent between parts (argh). “Let’s start at the second ending then.” “Er, which ending? Back about 200 measures there?” “No, the one where we just stopped.” At which point the strings and woodwinds all look with pity and condescension upon the poor feeble horn player who doesn’t know what an ending is…:)

    Come to think of it, Mayer doesn’t really have a proper pit anyhow, I guess – seems like other times I’ve played there we were in front of the stage and just sort of fenced off from the audience (gotta protect the audience from the musicians, don’tcha know).

  6. I’m not sure if the audience knows, but it seems like once a season the stagehands blow the sound system and the orchestra gets the BIG hand for the show. Looking through the programs I don’t see anything about microphones. I suppose what the audience doesn’t know doesn’t hurt them.

    Our halls are fairly big but accoustically not so great. The mike boost is only a little – a subtle addition to enhance the weaknesses of the hall.

    Tim – I can empathize with parts not being consistent with scores. Our company also buys the cheap Kalmus scores and rehearsals are always a chore to figure out where we are. Annoying to say the least.

  7. Long ago we had monitors in the pit – which helped tremendously. But for some reason they don’t do that anymore… probably a budgetary thing. Now we just get the “why aren’t you listening to the singers” look from impatient conductors not realizing that we can’t hear the singers very well. This especially true in the back of the pit that is well under the stage.

  8. That’s why I hate playing backstage or anywhere I can’t hear the performers well, because it’s really about them, and I’ve always believed that our best efforts enhance the audience’s experience without them even noticing us (friends and family excepted).