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La Traviata
My mother and I recently attended the audio described performance of New Zealand Opera’s La Traviata in Wellington with my sister, who is blind. (And yes, I know that the PC term is “visually impaired” but if she has to be labelled, Linda prefers the term “blind”, so that’s what we use.)

I want to thank everyone who made this performance. We all thoroughly enjoyed the performance and talked enthusiastically about it on the way back to Upper Hutt.

For the first time in 30 years

It wasn’t until we got to Melling that I thought, “Hang on a minute, mate. There’s something wrong here.” I then realised that what was “wrong”’ was that for the first time in 30 years my mother and I had been to a show with my sister and not had to explain to her afterwards what it was all about; we didn’t have to desperately try to remember every little thing that we’d seen so that we could survive her cross examination and, more importantly, ensure that she understood it retrospectively.

For the first time in 30 years we were discussing the singers, the music, the plot and the scenery as three sighted people would. The relief was immense. I hadn’t realised until then just how much my sister’s blindness has impacted on my life, and I’m thrilled that she was able to appreciate La Traviata in the same way as any other member of the audience.

First time at the opera

We’ve been to many plays, concerts and films over the years but we hadn’t been to an opera before. I live in Whanganui, and have been to a number of Opera Week events over the years (and my mother came up one year for it).

Audio describer Nicola OwenBut it is absolutely fair to say that if I hadn’t read about New Zealand Opera's audio described performance in The Dominion Post a few weeks before, it wouldn’t have occurred to any of us to go to La Traviata. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we’re looking forward to the next one.

Thank you for thoughtfully emailing my father the plain text version of the programme. We read this to my sister beforehand, and it was very helpful.

Thank you to everyone involved with the touch tour. It was very generous of them to take time out from their preparations, and very gracious of the cast members to explain and describe their roles and to allow Linda to feel their costumes. They seemed genuinely interested in ensuring that the people on the tour shared their enthusiasm for La Traviata, and they were successful.

And a very big thank you to Nicola and Edward for their commentary, as this was essential for Linda to follow what was happening on stage. From what she said afterwards, it is clear they did a brilliant job.

Thanks you for the English surtitles

While on the subject of inclusion, I’d also like to thank you for the English surtitles. My Italian is on a par with my sister’s eyesight, so having the English available meant that I too could follow what was happening.

Being used to subtitles in films, it didn’t in any way detract from my enjoyment of the performance. Rather, it enhanced it. It’s wonderful that we have the technology to make opera accessible to more people, and truly wonderful that there is the will to use it.

We’ve been talking to people all week about the performance – not just about the audio description aspect but also about the impressive talents of all the people involved who made this such a memorable performance. I feel blessed to live in a country where we can experience such great opera without having to go to Covent Garden or the Met.

 

 

Making opera accessible to more people

 
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