• Surtitling, subtitling
    & multilingual titling
    for the live performing arts.


2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007

Theoretical Models and Proposals for Staging in Drama and Operatic Theatre
Module lead by Mauro Conti
University of Udine, Degree Course in Specialist and Multimedia Translation

1. In what context, and why, titling for theatre emerged and became an established practice.
2. Aesthetic objections raised against titling.
3. Alternative techniques to titling.
4. The idiosyncrasies of titling for theatre (surtitles) compared with titling for cinema (subtitles).
5. Titling as a service for the audience.
6. Problems rising from dual clients: the theatrical institution and the authors.
7. Timing, rhythm and dramaturgy as the main points of reference for a translation.
8. Characteristics, limits and resources of translations for theatre titling.
9. Laboratory on a theatrical production in English or German language:
– a) analysis of technical parameters
– b) timing
– c) editing of an Italian language adaptation
– d) controls and analysis of the finished work.
10. Titling as the start of a work that the audience can and should elaborate.


Laboratory of Theatrical Translation on «Julius Caesar» by William Shakespeare
Lead by Marisa Sestito and Michele Mirabella
Udine, Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine, 16-19 May 2007
Long-running project in collaboration with the Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine and University of Udine

«We follow the journey of a text» explains Marisa Sestito (lecturer in English Literature at the University of Udine), «through the metamorphoses that transform it into a script: a long and often bumpy path that moves from the original language, passes through the translation into Italian, leaves the context of prose and delivers the theatre’s words to the actor’s voice. Work on the translation is supported by interpretation of the text (historical and cultural contextualisation, critical analysis, reflexions on the peculiarities of the language) and also by attention to the musical quality of the English and Italian languages on the tongues of native speakers». Complementary laboratories explore similar sectors in parallel (adaptations for television, cinema and stage, surtitling, direction); the Shakespearean itinerary will, finally, reach Michele Mirabella’s mise en espace.

Contributors: Marzia Dal Fabbro (actress and lecturer at the Link Academy, University of Malta), Massimo Somaglino (actor and director), Elisabetta Bucciarelli (Artistic Director of CDL and Sound Art 23, Rome), Mauro Conti (Director of Prescott Studio, Florence), Carlo Gaberscek (lecturer, essayist, art historian and historian of cinema), Renato Oniga (lecturer in Latin Language and Literature).


Libertine Excursions – Laboratory for Theatrical Translation
Lead by Marisa Sestito and Michele Mirabella
Udine, Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine, 19-24 May 2008
Long-running project in collaboration with the Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine and University of Udine

The terrain of critical investigation for translation this year refers to the English comedy of the late seventeenth century and to the figure that characterises it most: the libertine. The text that the laboratory focusses on is George Etheredge’ masterpiece, The Man of Mode (1676): a bitter-sweet comedy that shows a seducer in action, the cynical and sadistic game played on his victims, the unexpected showdown with a woman who is his match, verbally and sentimentally, and who, in the end, brings him to marry under her conditions. The text is commented, discussed, translated; the musical quality of English and Italian accompany the work on translation, thanks to the participation of actors who allow us to gather stimuli and understand the difficulty of the passage from one language to another. The final product is entrusted to the director, who will lead the text to the definitive reading. The complementary laboratories follow the libertine in his excursions through other genres and expressive forms, such as music and cinema, permitting us to verify rules and limits that condition the work and creativity of a translator.

Collaborators: Stefano Bianchi (Custodian of the Civico Museo Teatrale Carlo Schmidl in Trieste), Elisabetta Bucciarelli (Artistic Director of CDL and Sound Art 23, Rome), Mauro Conti (Director of Prescott Studio, Florence), Marzia Dal Fabbro (actress and lecturer at the Link Academy, University of Malta), Maria Paola Frattolin (President of the Associazione Itineraria, Cologno Monzese), Nadia Fusini (lecturer in English Literature, Università La Sapienza di Roma), Loretta Innocenti (lecturer in English Literature, Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia), Francesco Pitassio (lecturer in History of the Cinema, University of Udine), Massimo Somaglino (actor and director).


Paris, Théâtre de l’Odéon, 3 February 2014
A workshop coordinated by Laurent Muhleisen and Michel Bataillon
Maison Antoine Vitez, Centre International de la Traduction Théâtrale, Paris
With the participation of Mauro Conti, Prescott Studio, Florence

«Within European culture» – writes Laurent Muhleisen in his introduction to this French initiative – «translation holds a central role; without such a mediation, disseminating works of literature would not be possible. In the theatre productions circulating across our continent, the art of translation stands out in the surtitles practice. Without this support, the reception of a performance in a foreign language is hopelessly incomplete».
«How are surtitles conceived and designed? What ‹actors› are at work on them? What skills, what steps and strategies does their achievement imply? What artistic, technical and logistical resources should be set into motion, so that everyone in the European audience be enabled to fully experience at their best the spirit and the letter of a text while attending a performance in a foreign language? To these questions the workshop [of February 3, 2014] attempts to provide an answer».

> Mauro Conti – Scripta Volant (2014)
> Portfolio


New York, Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, 13 June 2014

Meeting with Mauro Conti (Prescott Studio) by Laura Caparrotti
As part of In Scena 2014, Italian Theater Festival New York

> Claire Taddei – Reading Voices: The Art of Supertitles
> Claire Taddei – Theater Festival NY Presents «Reading Voices: The Art of Supertitles»


Montclair, NJ, USA, Montclair State University, 5 December 2014
An Interdisciplinary Conversation about Audiovisual Translation
Film, Opera, and Theater Sub- and Sur-titles Across Languages
Montclair State University – The College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Supported by Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies

The program aims at providing a general introduction to the art and techniques of sub- and sur-titling for films, operas, and theatre performances. In combining knowledge of foreign languages, cultural awareness, aesthetic choices and technological skills, sub- and sur-titling is an ideal professional field for students of the arts and humanities with a specialization in foreign languages.
The agenda has been opened with a round table of specialists addressing the philosophy of this fascinating field, the market-based offer and demand for sub- and sur-titles, and the tricks of the trade. After a short break the program is continued with area-specific workshops during which participants could learn in detail about techniques and outcomes.

Contributors: Teresa Fiore (Inserra Chair) and Marisa Trubiano (Department of Spanish and Italian) with Mauro Conti (director of Prescott Studio, Florence), Elena Di Giovanni (Università di Macerata), Raúl Galoppe (Department of Spanish and Italian), LeeAnn Overton (Metropolitan Opera House, New York), Federico Spalletti (director of Sub-Ti, London), Fabio Troisi (Istituto Italiano di Cultura, New York), Jedediah Wheeler (director of Kasser Theater, Montclair)

> Mauro Conti – Workshop
> Mauro Conti – A Compass for the Theater
> Reading Foreign Voices.01
> Reading Foreign Voices.02
> Annamaria Craparotta – Sottotitoli, scelte artistiche e opportunità professionali tra lingue e linguaggi
> Video
> Portfolio


Surtitling Strategies for Theatre

Montclair, NJ, USA, Montclair State University, 19 November 2015
Video-conference by Mauro Conti
Italian Translation – A Series of Talks with Experts in the Field
Montclair State University – The College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Supported by Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies

The technical expedient of surtitling for the live performing arts, a descendent of the now one-century old practice of cinema subtitling, has made a significant contribution over the last 30 years to the international knowledge of theatrical productions, whether dramatic or operatic, through its role in facilitating the scaling of linguistic barriers.
Are specific strategies needed for the linguistic and cultural mediation that is being furthered by the recently emerged professional discipline of sur-titling? How are these different from the more familiar strategies used by subtitles? What kind of competences are required to fulfil the objectives of sur-titles? Accidental Acrobatics attempts to propose some answers to these questions.
But why «accidental acrobatics»? Because the use of written texts, accompanying theatrical events in order to make them linguistically comprehensible to an audience that does not know the language (or languages) of the production, results in a balancing act that is not only an end in itself, having been imposed by rules that are implicit to the theatrical experience.
The keywords with which we find ourselves face to face are: Timing, Rhythm, Editing, Service, Rehearse, Optimize, Team – all categories that are usually somehow foreign to the traditional field of translation (except Editing). This is evidence of the mixed peculiarities of sur-titles, in which the art of compromise, well known to translators, finds yet further stimuli.

> Mauro Conti – Accidental Acrobatics
> Portfolio


Montclair, NJ, USA, Montclair State University, 11 December 2015
Techniques and Technologies for Titling Live Performances.
About the project Translating Voices Across Continents

Contributors: Teresa Fiore (Inserra Chair) and Marisa Trubiano (Department of Spanish and Italian) with Carlotta Brentan (Kairos Italy Theater, Nerw York), Laura Caparrotti (director of Kairos Italy Theater, New York), Mauro Conti (director of Prescott Studio, Florence), Laurence Jay-Rayon Ibrahim Aibo (director of Center for Translation and Interpreting, MSU), Annalisa Rossini (Piccolo Teatro di Milano).

> Montclair Translates for Milan
> TVAC – Translating Voices Across Continents
> The Art of Compromise
> Maurita Cardone – All’Expo va in scena il teatro italiano tradotto in New Jersey
> Donatella Codonesu – Iaia Forte. Da Napoli all’Expo di Milano
> Video


Surtitling Strategies for Theatre. An AVT Case
Neaples, Università degli Studi Suor Orsola Benincasa, 5 May 2014
Speech by Mauro Conti for the international conference
«Creativity in Translation/Interpretation and Interpreter/Translator Training»
T & R Forum, Naples, Università degli Studi Suor Orsola Benincasa, 5-6 May, 2016.

Analized keywords: 1. Time, 2. Rhythm, 3. Editing, 4. Service, 5. Rehearse, 6. Optimize, 7. Team.
1. Time. Writing surtitles means telling a story in a time frame, which is stated by the stage through singing or acting. The story is told through a written text (to be read), which summarizes the vocal text (to be heard). The time standard combines those two parallel storytellings, keeping the written path dependent on the vocal path.
2. Rhythm. To make the time standard work together with the surtitling, it is necessary to consider its rhythmic aspect. Through that rhythm the score of a spoken or a sung text becomes a production. Identifying a rhythm which respects the staging (timing) leads to properly set up the storytelling of surtitling.
3. Editing. Editing is the most familiar phase to a translator; it recalls the editorial work of a publishing house. The editing suitable for surtitling, however, differs largely from the usual editorial review. «Editing», in surtitling, means «adaptation»: adaptation to timing, layout, reading times. And the editorial standards used in a production change for every single caption.
4. Service. Surtitling is a service provided to the audience. This service works if it integrates with listening and viewing. The main working tools, for this aim, are timing (dramaturgical tool), editing (adaptation), graphic layout (text layout) and the analysis of reading times (right fruition for the audience).
5. Rehearse. In theater, rehearsing is a practice shared by everyone, including the authors of surtitles. That means that every linguistic choice needs to be tested together with acting, singing, stage action. Moreover, surtitles have a both visual and semantic impact, which needs to be judged carefully, evaluating its graphic project, rhythm and narration.
6. Optimize. The various standards that make the surtitling working properly need to be well balanced. This balance is crucial to determine the functionality of a correct linguistic mediation for the live performing arts. However, this goal is to be achieved gradually, step by step. This process goes through phases which are separate yet closely linked.
7. Team. Making surtitles is a team work. Teams are made up of individuals with different skills and competences. Such working team needs to be coordinated and supervised, we could even say led by a director. What certainly should never be missing, in a team, is the spirit of compromise and the constant search for better solutions.

> Mauro Conti – Accidental Acrobatics – Paper
> Mauro Conti – Accidental Acrobatics – Video
> Creativity in Translation – T & R Forum 2016