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SimulText? at the Vienna Opera House

Solution Overview

Industry & Country
Entertainment, Austria

Related Links

? Vienna Staatsoper


? Alberto Vilar

Related Content

? SimulText Wins Los Alamos Technology Award

?Opera is my passion; technology my profession ....?

?.... going to the opera can be made even more captivating through a better understanding of the text?

Mr. Alberto Vilar
Philanthropist & Technology Investor
?The system has attracted new target groups of customers and user acceptance is very high?

?There is only one difficulty - shortening the text to fit three lines of 35 to 50 characters?

Mr. Andreas Láng
Title Co-ordinator, Vienna Staatsoper


Today, the Vienna Staatsoper combines modern style with a long tradition and is famous all over the world. Even as a traditional opera house, it was looking for ways to attract a new and young audience to opera. In particular, it was looking for a way to provide multilingual versions of libretto text, intelligently and elegantly integrated into an opera house environment.

Ioan Holender, the director of the Vienna Staatsoper, found a solution while visiting the USA. The SimulText® Electronic Libretto System, which delivers simultaneous translations of libretto text in up to eight languages, and which had been introduced at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Subsequently, the Vienna Staatsoper became the first opera house in Europe to deliver a translated version of a libretto electronically, and the first in the world to provide it in more than one language.

Choosing the Right Partners
The introduction and implementation of the SimulText® system in Vienna was completely financed by Alberto Vilar, a Cuban-American renowned as one of the world's most generous philanthropists as well as one of its most successful technology investors.

"Opera is my passion; technology my profession. For this reason, I am particularly thrilled to be able to provide to one of my favourite opera houses with the most state-of-the-art system of translation titles available. I know how the extraordinary experience of going to the opera can be made even more captivating through a better understanding of the text", says Alberto Vilar.

Implementation of the system was carried out by Siemens AG Austria, and Telekom Austria AG provides additional support by funding the running costs and maintenance.

The SimulText? System
SimulText? delivers up to ten different channels of translated libretto text to individual viewers via a system of personal display monitors. In addition to its primary use in opera houses, it is suitable for any application where discreet, and ergonomically presented text delivery is required.

SimulText? titles are operated by computer from a central control booth, and translations for the titles are written by specialists to correspond with the staging of each production. The text conveys the meaning of what the performers are singing but is not usually a word-for-word translation.

A script of the translated text is entered into a computer where revisions can be easily made, and each set of titles is coded with a cue number, which is also marked in the vocal score. As no two performances are alike, the human element keeps titles synchronised with the action on stage.

During the performance, a stage manager in the control booth watches the conductor, the singers and the vocal score and signals an operator when to move from one set of titles to the next. Typical monitor placements include seat back installation and rail mounting, but a wide range of custom and other mounting options are available to provide each audience member with a conveniently and comfortably placed display.

The Benefits
Units housing the display screens are designed to blend with the opera house d?cor, all wiring is encased inside railings, and access to seats is not affected. Displays are centred in line with the "stage picture" from each of the Staatsoper's 1,709 seats and 567 standing room locations and units are also available at two wheelchair stations.

As Andreas L?ng points out: "Big electronic screens get in the way, and the text cannot be clearly read from all seats. Visitors can choose between German and English text versions, or can switch the monitor off if they prefer. "The system has attracted new target groups of customers and user acceptance is very high. Around 80% of the audience uses the system and it seems they can't live without it anymore. There is only one difficulty - shortening the text to fit three lines of 35 to 50 characters".

The Future
In the near future, the Vienna Staatsoper will implement Japanese versions of the text, and will provide its expertise in this area to other opera houses. In an increasingly competitive business environment, it is important for opera houses and theatres to attract new groups of customers, and they are going into the right direction by becoming more innovative and customer-oriented.

This success story is based on interviews with Andreas L?ng, Titles Manager at Vienna Staatsoper. We would like to thank him very much for his help and co-operation. A full text version is also available in MS Word [336 KB] or PDF [26 KB] formats.

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