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The word titling, in the performing arts (opera, drama, audiovisual productions), defines the work of linguistic mediation encompassing subtitling and surtitling.



Subtitling developed starting from 1917, during the silent film era, whereas surtitling has been used in the live performing arts since 1983 (at the dawning of digital systems).
With the appearance of new information systems, which opened the door to multilingual titling terminological debate started, too.
In the audiovisual system, even when more than one language was used, subtitles maintained their position unchanged for many years. The newest software technologies for mobile devices, which came out as an alternative to subtitling in cinemas, or the possibilities opened up by head-mounted displays, such as subtitle glasses, have made a revision of the technical terminology necessary also in the field of those performing arts that are reproducible on electronic devices.
Even more so, in the live performing arts, the presence of multilingual options on custom individual devices (Santa Fe Opera, 1998) [1] or on mobile consumer devices (Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, 2011) [2] or on hybrid solutions (Royal Opera House Muscat, 2012), [3] makes the spatial connotation of the term "sur-titles" inappropriate.


In both cases (performing arts that are reproducible on electronic devices and live performing arts), for a scientific approach the term "titling", broader and all-embracing, is preferable to define the work of linguistic mediation, without specifying whether the visualization is to be above (sur-titles) or below (sub-titles). [4]



  1. Figaro Systems introduced in 1998 at Santa Fe Opera a custom multilingual display system recalling the aircraft video display units; this system has been lately adopted, through different companies, by some of the most prominent international theatres, such as Copenhagen, Milan, Moscow, Muscat, New York, Oslo.
  2. OperaVoice, in the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Theatre’s season 2011-2012, developed a wireless multilingual transmission system which is to use mobile consumer devices owned by the audience (smartphones and tablets), and is also interfaceable with projected surtitles.
  3. Radio Marconi, in 2011-2012, realized for the Royal Opera House Muscat the most advanced system of custom multilingual interactive displays integrated to surtitles on LED panel.
  4. This is also recommended in: FREDDI M. e LURAGHI S., Titling for the Opera House: a Test Case for Universals of Translations? in INCALCATERRA McLOUGHLIN L., eds., Audiovisual Translation, Peter Lang, Bern-Berlin-New York 2010.

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