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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!


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cochlear Implant Miracles: Opera! Bravo! Encore!

I'm no novice with cochlear implants, having gotten my first CI in 1997, and being bilateral since 2008.  I always was able to enjoy music with my CIs - it took a while to adapt back in 1997, with some music genres taking longer than others to sound "normal."  I had never been an opera buff prior to losing my hearing, though, but being deaf and enjoying music has made me want to try it all.  I do listen to classical music, so opera wasn't exactly a huge leap.  I learned about the Metropolitan Opera HD simulcasts a few years ago - these are live performances that are beamed by satellite into local movie theaters. The ticket price is a fraction of a live Met performance, and in some respects, the simulcast experience has additional benefits unavailable in the live theater.  

With that as background, I looked forward to the first opera of the season - Verdi's Otello - which had Renee Fleming in the leading female role - a wonderful opportunity to see the best!  This opera would run 3 1/2 hours with one intermission.  The interesting part about going to the opera is that it is wonderful music practice.  Even though I do well listening to music, it still does get "better" after listening for 3 1/2 hours.  

There were several movie theaters in my area showing this performance - a few of them sold out.  Arriving a bit early  ensures getting the pick of seating location - no extra charge!  And so, waiting for the 1 PM curtain, I always pack a picnic lunch - the theaters don't mind, understanding that popcorn and Verdi aren't really made for each other.   The countdown to the opera begins about 5 minutes before, with this on-screen update: 

Waiting for Otello to begin 

Knowing that this is being broadcast live is exciting. There are rebroadcasts at other times, which I've attended.  But there's something special knowing that a mere 10 or so miles away in NYC, all this is happening "live from New York"!    And then, the focus is on that massive curtain and stage!

Metropolitan Opera awaiting the beginning of Otello

There are several benefits to attending these simulcasts:  
  • Subtitles are placed right on the screen, in perfect sync with the lyrics, in easy-to-read font size.
  • They always have some famous opera star doing interviews with the performers at the intermission (but not captioned). 
  • The cameras zoom in on the performers so you can see them up close - much closer than even front row orchestra seats!
  • The camera also zooms into the orchestra pit to highlight the instrumental passages.
  • The cameras are behind the curtain during scene changes, showing the incredible infrastructure that allows for these elaborate stage sets. And they interview the production personnel as well.
  • And, my absolute favorite part, which begins the excitement, is when the production manager speaks into the intercom, "Maestro to the pit!" - signaling that it is showtime, the production is ready to begin, and the conductor is needed to start the overture!
And now to the music!  This was the first time I was going to be listening with my new software program, ClearVoice, set on my processors.  I've listened to music with it, and actually prefer the sound with ClearVoice on, but this was my first opera, so I was curious about how everything would sound.

And  . . .   I liked it!  ClearVoice seemed to give greater clarity to the instruments and to the voices.  I switched back and forth to my non-CV program, but CV won every time.   The bass voices are the ones I have the most difficulty with, as each ear hears that register slightly differently. But as I expected, I was doing better with this during the last act than in the beginning. The tonality was still good, it was just hearing the baritone as low as it really was. The sopranos were angelic, as usual.

When I first started going to these performances, I thought I'd never be able to sit through hour upon hour of opera.  But the sound, the sets, the costumes, the subtitles, the camerawork, the interviews - all make it a most enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.  And with each opera, I sit there in utter awe, never forgetting that I am a deaf person, enjoying the enchantment of the Metropolitan Opera - and I still can't quite believe it.

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