Spatial separation - real life vs recording

I was lucky enough to go to a live performance this weekend. Cosi Fan Tutte at Glyndebourne. Best seats I’ve had there. Centre, front row of circle. I could see the whole of the stage and the orchestra. The sound was wonderful but was not directional. The singers did not sound like they were separated left to right yet were perfectly distinct. So different to recordings whether from the '60s (Bohm) or 2000s (Nezet-Seguin) where the voices and instruments are set in a distinct horizontal direction and with obvious separation. This appears to me to be an exaggeration, possibly started to show the technology available with stereo. It doesn’t seem to reflect real life sound to me.


Glyndebourne, in common with many opera houses, certainly larger ones, amplify singers and possibly even the orchestra. A lot will depend on how they mix the sound and play it through the speakers - and if done with head-worn microphones which these days is the norm (as opposed to fixed microphones) it would take considerable effort to pan the position of the sound during the performance to follow the movement of each singer, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that is a rare refinement.

A few years ago I saw a performance of an opera in Italy on a small scale, in a hall that was simply a rectangular room I guess about 30 feet wide, with flat floor, and stage about 4ft high and maybe 20-25 feet or so wide. I was seated perhaps 15 feet from the front of the stage just off-centre - probably about the best position in the house. I am as positive as I can be that it was un-amplified. Certainly there the positions of solo singers sounded exactly where they were on stage - exactly as one would expect. I was conscious of it because when a singer came on from one side of the stage singing while obscured by someone or something else on stage, or deliberately singing in the wings before coming on, the directionality drew my attention to focus on where they were. (All measurements best guess from memory.)


I wouldn’t expect a recording to be realistic … even if I try … or even a live recording.
They are different things.
Although I have heard in theaters or churches really amazing things, impossible to reproduce in a recording.
For me they are different sound experiences

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You’re quite right @R.K , live music doesn’t have imaging anythinglike a Stereo system. Stereo is of course artificially created in the recording because when replayed in the home it’s a nice effect - Clearer, richer, more involving than the concert hall, which goes some way to making up for the fact that even the best HiFi can’t reproduce the full acoustic richness and subtlety of a real Orchestra or Band playing live.
I quite like being put on the podium next to the conductor by the recording engineer. Great fun, even if not realistic.
Artificial for sure, but I think most of us find it a fun addition to the home listening experience.


Operas are well-rehearsed so that would be automated. Using Ircam Spat you can not only program where on stage a performer is but also the direction the performer is singing and how the acoustics sound in that direction and so on. Use it in Max/MSP and you can build a custom-mixer for each production and sync it all up with the stage light-automation.


I was totally devastated a few years back having booked seats at a London theatre of a riverdance show.
I might be mistaken but I’m convinced they were all dancing in time to replayed audio completely disconnected to what was really going on on with the floor stomping.

Interesting. I wonder if Glyndebourne uses such a system - the opening post suggests not.

I find that when I go to the back at a venue, especially a large venue, the drummer loses sync, lifting the sticks from the drums before they make a sound (but when I am closer to the stage they are careful to get back in sync)…

Speed of sound vs speed of light? A tenth of a second is typically easily noticable for AV lipsync issues, so this would be equivalent to 30 meters.

Hardly in an opera house. A voice taken up so close-up would not sound the same and these singers are well-educated to reach out. But outdoors you have higher background noise levels to compete with.

I’ve been to the finnish opera festival in Savonlinna where they perform outdoors in an ancient 15th century castle with no roof, never seen any mics used there but heard a lot of birds flying over making a racket. It’s in july every year (covid excepted) and well worth visiting.

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Exactly! I did wonder if that mighg have been significant in @TOBYJUG‘s reported experience, though of course it could have been simply poor dance timing.

Of course, flat-earthers may believe that the drummer is watching them and performing magic when they are at the back!


There’s no a

I’m pretty sure Glyndebourne don’t do that

I was at the front. So rules out possible science.
In fact watching any footage online or anywhere of Riverdancing is obvious that there is no at seen means of capturing the noise - unless there’s a pickup device attached to the boards.
But still under close observation there was at times very distinct out of time stepping in the replay acoustic narrative.

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