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Opera Surtitling as a Special Case of Audiovisual Translation

Towards a Semiotic and Translation Based Framework for Opera Surtitling


Anna Rędzioch-Korkuz

Despite the growing interest in various translation activities, there is still a potentially vast area of research. The statement may be true for opera surtitling, which was introduced in the nineteen eighties and has been used in opera companies worldwide ever since. This book aims to offer a theoretical framework for opera surtitling, based on several factors, including the semiotics of opera, relevance theory, or fundamental rules of audiovisual translation. The author provides a more illuminating insight by means of practical research into surtitling in Poland, which proves that surtitling is not as simple a task as it may seem, demanding a multimodal and multifaceted analysis of an audiovisual complex and requiring a constant struggle to guarantee optimal relevance of the surtitled performance.

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Concluding Remarks and Recommendations


Surtitling was introduced and meant as a means of enhancing operatic communication. As a result, surtitles were supposed to be transparent and discreet. The rationale behind that was fairly obvious, for no spectator would theoretically go to the opera to read a translation of a libretto projected in a barely convenient manner. It seems, however, that little attention devoted to the subject or rather minor significance attached to this specific translation activity has led to a development of various strategies and approaches. Consequently, a great many companies are often used to their own style guides or conventions, which seem also accepted by local audiences.

It would be probably difficult to indicate the most appropriate surtitling paradigm and abandon or banish the wrong ones. Such definite judgements are better to be avoided. A good theoretical framework seems a perfect point of departure for suggesting a commonsensical solution. Throughout this book a number of attempts were made in order to indicate and underline the most significant aspects, which would contribute to creating a sound theoretical basis for surtitling.

It appears that a profound knowledge of opera should be seen as the starting point: it was indicated that opera is built on certain conventions, which ideally make it a unique amalgam of words, music and a spectacle. It was emphasised, then, that a libretto is just an element of such a complex and does not exist as a self-contained and independent text. Moreover, each sign introduced in...

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