Frankfurt Opera goes English

Frankfurt Opera goes English


norman lebrecht

November 24, 2017

A post-Brexit enticement from our good German friends:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

German surtitles for operas sung in other languages have been provided at Oper Frankfurt since 1990 and, later on, could also be seen for operas performed in German. Early on, audiences were very critical of there being any surtitles at all, but they soon became more acceptable because audience members could follow the operas better  – in Frankfurt and other opera houses. Nowadays one cannot imagine a leading opera house not providing, at least, surtitles in the language of their country.

Oper Frankfurt has just introduced English surtitles, which appear above the stage alongside German surtitles, for all performances in the main house. Exceptions are two concert performances of Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux from February 2nd2017, the revival of Britten’s Billy Budd (which is performed in English anyway) from May 19th 2018 and the remaining performances, this season, of Verdi’s Il trovatore and Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail. New monitors were installed at the beginning of the 2017/18 season at the sides of the auditorium, under the circles, for people who could not see the central monitor well but, because of a lack of space, and technical reasons, only the German surtitles can be seen on them.


alles klahr?

‘We see the provision of English surtitles as an attractive offer for our increasingly international audiences – particularly in a city like Frankfurt – which will hopefully make a visit to the opera all the more enjoyable. Anyone who experienced, as was the case during a performance of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, when technical problems prevented the surtitles from being projected, would have been surprised by the lack of laughter in the audience. This is evidence for me of how surtitles for operas have become fully established, and almost taken for granted. And, to our surprise, one really can hear how our audiences’ enjoyment has increased since we have started providing English surtitles,’ said Opernintendant Bernd Loebe.


  • Nik says:

    Vienna Staatsoper has been offering English subtitles since 2001. They anticipated the Brexit referendum result by 15 years. Remarkable!
    As of this season they have upgraded their system to offer also Italian, French, Japanese and Russian. Norman, I’m sure you will agree that therefore France, Italy, Russia and Japan are all dead certs for leaving the EU in the near future.

    • Robin Worth says:

      Deutsche Oper Berlin have long provided the choice of German language text : useful when they are performing Wagner However good one’s command of the German language, some of the master’s compound nouns and neo-archaic constructions are challenging to listen to

    • Mike Schachter says:

      Even the Bastille does English surtitles. Incroyable!

  • Martinu says:

    The Berlin opera houses (both State and German) do not have any English surtitles – Just German. Berlin is a tourist town, and I think the tourists deserve English.
    The Israeli opera in Tel Aviv gives both Hebrew and English – the way it should be.

    • Zenaida says:

      Deutsche Oper Berlin offers English and German surtitles. Komische Oper offers German, English, French and Japanese. Staatsoper unter den Linden will be also offering German and English once the season gets underway at the newly reopened Staatsoper.

      • Martinu says:

        At least few years ago Deutsche Oper had German only in Meistersinger (probably appropriate – the most nationalistic German opera..). And Staatoper had German only in Siegfried and Julietta 2 seasons ago in Schiller Theater. That is my experience..

  • buschtrommel says:

    Haha, in Munich we will have in a few years German, English, perhaps also French, Japanese, Chinese, but specially Bavarian! Yeah!! Who knows…

  • Sam says:

    The issue is they are not seat monitors so they all have to be shown on a screen large enough to be seen over the stage at oper frankfurt. There is no option for 4 or 5 languages