Mystery score

Mystery score

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Balances, Again and Again

It turns out the sound and balances in the orchestra of War Memorial Opera House really are, uh, interesting. It seems a difference of all of eight feet has a noticable impact on the sound quality.

For complicated reasons I'm not going to go into, I saw the entire Norma performance last month from orchestra rear Z-104, while my companion saw the first act from ZZ-101 (the very back row, where the seats can be moved around to make space for patrons who use wheelchairs or scooters and their friends) and the second act from Z-102. He later reported that he'd thought the sound slightly better from Z-102 - a little muffled in row ZZ, and less so in Z. He's not a musician, but he is a good listener and musical, with a good enough ear that he easily picked out the best of the singers (Mishura) and knew there wasn't significant competition for that title. I definitely trust what he said about the sound quality.

I had my own minor revelation when I reviewed Fidelio. I was in around row M, but just off the right-hand aisle - not the one by the wall. It was not difficult to hear the singers' voices expanding into the house, an effect you miss in orchestra rear, where I feel more as thought the voices are aimed directly at me. But there is a disconcerting sensation of being out of the line of fire when you're hard left or right, plus there can be a distracting sensation that the voices are echoing off the wall.

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