Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Hector Berlioz Tells You Where to Sit

From p. 51 of the Dover edition of his Memoirs:
After having thus succeeded in getting my man into the theatre when one of Gluck's masterpieces was to be played, I placed him on a seat in the pit, conjuring him not to change his place, seeing that others were not equally good for hearing, and that I had tried every one. Here you were too near the horns, there you could not hear them; on the right the trombones were too loud, on the left the repercussion from the stage-boxes produced a disagreeable effect; nearer to the stage you were too close to the orchestra, and the voices were drowned; higher up you were too far from the stage, and the words were inaudible, or you could not follow the facial expressions of the actors; the instrumentation of this work was best appreciated from such a place, the chorus from another; in one act the scene was laid in a sacred forest, which was so vast that the sound was lost in most parts of the theatre, therefore it was necessary to go nearer; in another, which represented the interior of a palace, and was what is called, in the language of the theatre, a salon ferme, the force of the sound being doubled by this seemingly trifling change, it became advisable to move to the back of the pit,* where the voices would seem to blend in more complete harmony.
* I take "pit" to mean "orchestra seats" or "stalls," in American and British usage.

No comments: