Sunday, January 07, 2007

Lotfi Mansouri interview in WholeNote

The December-January issue of Toronto's WholeNote Magazine contains a fascinating interview with legendary director Lotfi Mansouri in Pamela Margles' Recently in Town column. An excerpt:

Of all Mansouri’s accomplishments in Toronto, the one that has had the greatest impact is his idea for Surtitles, now used around the world. ‘As a stage director I was always frustrated when I would work very hard on detailed nuances, but nobody would know what the hell anybody was singing about. We were doing Poppea, one of my favourite pieces. It’s like a Shakespearean play, so you really have to understand every word. And I wanted to do it in the original Italian.’

‘One night I was home watching the Ring Cycle from Bayreuth on television with my wife. My wife was not a great Wagnerian, but suddenly she said, “You know, Lotfi, this really isn’t as dumb as I thought it was”. She had been reading the subtitles on the tv screen. All of the sudden it was like the apple falling from the tree. If they could put subtitles on the bottom of the tv screen, why couldn’t we put them at the top of the opera stage? And that’s how it all started. At the beginning I was just lacerated. Critics tore me to pieces. An editorial from London called Surtitles “the plague from Canada”. Now, of course, everybody’s using them.’

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