How can I understand an opera that’s sung in a foreign language?

Question

How can I understand an opera that's sung in a foreign language?

Answer

If you're at a performance at Lyric and most other major opera companies worldwide, there will be translations projected above the stage, allowing you to follow along during the performance, literally line by line.

If you're sitting at home just listening to a CD or streaming an opera online, you can follow along with the libretto (text). A great many complete operas on CD include the full libretto and translation. If there's no libretto included with the CD or you're listening online, just Google the name of the opera with the word "translation" and you should be able to find what you need online — especially if it's a comparatively well-known work.

If you're watching on TV, more operas on DVD give you access to subtitles.

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Roger Pines — Lyric's dramaturg and resident opera answer man — is here to help.