Why opera singers don’t deafen each other

Why opera singers don’t deafen each other


norman lebrecht

November 08, 2021

From an entertaining little exchange in the Guardian:

Why don’t opera singers deafen each other? They’re singing loud enough to be heard in the back row, yet they are right in each other’s ears. Brian Dermody, Blessington, Co Wicklow

As an opera singer we take some care, generally, to not sing directly into the ears of our cast mates. I make certain to adjust my position onstage to take care of my colleague’s ears no matter the situation. There are times when the sheer volume is deafening, but it is infrequent. More often than not it is hard to actually hear onstage. In America, where I mostly perform, stages and houses are built for large audiences and big travelling productions, not just opera. The sound of a pitted orchestra can go straight out and away from the stage, making it necessary for companies to amplify the orchestra and send the feed to speakers backstage, so singers can hear the accompaniment to their singing. This can be more deafening than the singers singing together. It’s a delicate balance no matter what. John Moore…

More reponses here.


  • Bet says:

    Doesn’t really answer the question in love duets where the two singers are clearly in each other’s face, if not actually touching cheek to cheek, when they hit those high Cs at ff with their mouths open at maximum width.

    I assume they have the courtesy of sucking on a mint before such duets especially with stage directors who always want them to kiss.

  • Harpist says:

    Read somewhere that Domingo’s voice was astonishingly quiet on stage but projected outward perfectly. Not a singer though so make of if what you want.

  • Anon! A Moose! says:

    I once had the distinct displeasure of playing a sitzprobe in which the singers were next to the conductor facing the orchestra, about a meter from me. It was painful and I had to occasionally stop and plug my ears.