Behind the Curtain of Lesser Known Performing Arts Jobs

Linda Zoolalian playing piano (which she also teaches along with voice).

Linda Zoolalian playing piano (which she also teaches along with voice).

L.A. Opera patrons who rely on supertitles to understand the text of what’s being sung can thank the woman wearing a headset and sitting in a space above the wall chandeliers on the right side of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion auditorium.

Linda Zoolalian has prepared and cued the supertitles—librettos projected in English on a screen above the proscenium and elsewhere—since 2003. Three years ago, she began cueing supertitles for the Los Angeles Master Chorale as well.

Zoolalian, whose other positions include rehearsal pianist for Pasadena Opera and adjunct professor at Pasadena City College, obtains score texts from the L.A. Opera library, other opera houses or a local company that provides opera translations.

“Every opera house gives it to us differently—it could be a PowerPoint presentation or a Word document,” Zoolalian explains. “I take it and input it to our own proprietary software and add the timing. I decide how fast or slow each title will be, with the music. Sometimes I shorten it if it doesn’t fit, or decide the punctuation. And I’m an editorial fanatic—I’m really picky about [word]spacing.”

Zoolalian is there to cue the supertitles for some rehearsals and every performance. During the show she sits with her score, watching the conductor’s baton on a monitor and cueing a technician, who sits with a laptop on the fifth level near the spotlight crew. There are generally between 450 and 650 changes of projection per opera, with Zoolalian usually instructing, “Fade in—go. Fade out—go.”

Click here to read Libby Slate’s full article on

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