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Cochlear Implants, hearing loss and more! I carry an interesting perspective: someone who had normal hearing growing up, lost it all slowly as an adult, then regained it with cochlear implants. So I'm deaf, but I can hear - a true miracle. If you'd like to know more about me and my bilateral cochlear implant experiences right away, my two books have a wealth of information - see the links below. Check out the list of upcoming events too - perhaps one day we'll get to meet!


Friday, March 9, 2012

Cochlear Implant Adventures Part V: LIVE - Jeopardy & Opera!

My whirlwind week in California continued to go according to plan (except for the Los Angeles traffic jams.)   What an amazing experience to see my expectations met and exceeded!  A quick recap - Advanced Bionics visit, Nethercutt Collection, Palm Desert weekend, Huntington Library and Gardens - plus brunches and dinners with friends in Rancho Mirage and Pasadena.  (I like saying the word "Pasadena" - makes my mouth happy.)  Now back to Los Angeles for Jeopardy in the morning, and the LA Opera in the evening - with the beach in between. 

Remember that I'm a deaf person with bilateral cochlear implants, with a long history of dealing with hearing loss.  I have always chosen carefully where I planned to visit and what I planned to do, never forgetting what my preferences are, and my limitations.  Although I watch Jeopardy on television, I always watch it with the captioning on, and I knew that going to a live taping of Jeopardy would have no captions and no assistive listening system available.  I had my eyes wide open on this.  I was confident enough now that I would be able to function reasonably well there.  And as for opera - I have been attending the Metropolitan Opera simulcasts in the movie theaters, so I knew I was ready to experience it live and that I would hear it well enough to enjoy it  - and  invest in the price of the tickets (our live opera tickets cost six times the price of the movie theater version).  It was ironic that both events ended up on the same day, especially considering that the opera and Jeopardy are not every-day occurrences. 

Here's a picture of me right outside the Jeopardy sound stage at the Sony Studios in Culver City, near downtown LA.  
Arlene outside of the Jeopardy studio

Those sound studios are BIG.  We had our tickets in hand, but had to wait and wait until we were allowed to enter the studio and take our seats.  As we were waiting, I struck up a conversation with a woman who was in LA visiting her son.  We chatted up a storm, and discovered we had so many things in common.  I guess it's not surprising to find like-minded people on a line for Jeopardy - but still, it was delightful to make a new friend, something I surely couldn't have done at all without my CIs, and certainly easier to do with my bilateral equipment.  

Here's what the Jeopardy set looked like. We were seated more to the right, so could see behind the contestants.  We learned that they are standing on little elevator platforms that could be raised or lowered, so that all their heads would be at the same height from the front.  

Jeopardy TV stage set

When the show started, I could watch the stage, or view the video screen off to the side. There were no captions, of course, as those are added post-production - and no assistive listening devices.  I was on my own.  I actually did quite well - and interestingly, I could understand the announcer, veteran Johnny Gilbert, best of all.  I could understand his voice without looking and without concentrating.  I couldn't really understand some of the contestants all the time, but if I knew the answers, then I did better than when I didn't.  Verdict on my decision to see Jeopardy?  WIN!  Yes, I would do it again.  Maybe next time as a contestant!  (NOT!)

Having a little fun at the Jeopardy studio

Interestingly, Wheel of Fortune is also taped in this sound studio, so we had our picture taken with this poster as well:

Arlene & Ira at Sony Studios

We spent the rest of the afternoon looking at the Pacific Ocean at Venice Beach, and then realized that getting back to our hotel would involve getting stuck in more LA traffic!  Oh no!  We left too little time to get back to the hotel to change our clothes, so I went to the opera wearing my jeans and sneakers!  (Oh, my!)

Arlene outside the LA Opera

When I researched the LA Opera, I couldn't believe that one of the few performances by Placido Domingo would fit exactly into our plans.  He was playing the title role in Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, an opera I had already seen in the Met movie version, so this gave me an opportunity to compare. 

Placido Domingo as Simon Boccanegra

This opera house looked a bit like the Met in Lincoln Center in NYC - similar outside architecture. 

LA Opera
Inside, it had what most opera houses have now - supertitles over the stage to display the text line by line.  (By comparison, the Met has seatback captions - and the Met broadcasts in the movie theaters display the text as subtitles on the screen.)
LA Opera with supertitle screen over the stage
They also had display screens on the side of the orchestra, near my seats.  

Screen on the side to display the text

I always enjoy visiting theaters I've never been to before, and observing the audience.  Each location seems to have its own style and rhythm.   I could hear the music quite well - the orchestra sounded better to me in person than the Met movie version - a fuller sound.  The soloists, however, didn't have as robust a sound as the movie theater experience.  It seems as though they didn't have the balance right between the orchestra and the soloists. It could have been the sound mixing, the voices, the microphones, or just me.

At the intermission, we looked out from the terrace, and were able to see Disney Hall, the new Frank Gehry building with its avant garde architecture.
Disney Hall by Frank Gehry

That was on my "to see" list as well, so I'm glad we had a chance to see it up close!  

I was really thrilled to have had the chance to experience opera like this - live and in person is like nothing else.  I especially like the curtain calls - the standing ovations, the bravos - on and on and on.  I loved being part of it, live and in person!  And because I had the confidence to purchase these tickets, that I knew I would be able to hear it, I was able to experience the excitement of it all.  Priceless!

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