The tyranny of the tool: surtitling live performances

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20 Citations (Scopus)


© 2013 Taylor & Francis. Surtitling is a complementary communication system that renders the verbal utterances taking place on stage into a written format and makes this accessible to members of the audience. Beyond the decisions of the professionals involved in the surtitling process, many of the characteristics related to surtitling content and its format are determined by a number of paralinguistic aspects. In this context, the effectiveness of both the surtitling process and the end result will depend on the following: the facilities for accessible services within the building where live performances take place; the development of technological innovations included in live performances; and the specifications of the surtitling technologies used. Central to the study detailed by this paper are the technical aspects related to the existing surtitling systems used in different live performances in scenic art venues. After a short introduction, dealing with the main features of stage performances, such as music, drama, stage, translation and surtitling practice, Section 2 examines the different indoor and outdoor spaces where live performances take place. In Section 3, new live performance spaces are presented. In Section 4, the surtitling practices of stage performances are outlined. In Section 5, commercially available software programmes are analysed, following the specifications for each genre. Section 6 concludes with a reflection on the multiple accessibility solutions that the latest developments in technology could offer to live performances.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-61
JournalPerspectives: Studies in Translatology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • accessibility
  • deaf and hearing-impaired audience
  • live performances
  • new technologies
  • opera
  • performance venues
  • surtitles
  • surtitling software
  • theatre


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