Odd how translation and snobbery seem to go together; even odder how the snobbery doubles where the translation is only from the spoken to the written word. You may remember the fuss, nay the high dudgeon, which attended the introduction of subtitles at the English National Opera a few years ago, even though the company sings only in English. The earlier introduction of surtitles for foreign-language performances, at the Met in New York, even at Covent Garden, had a slightly smoother passage.
Now we have George Pelecanos, a writer of the gritty and fashionable US television series, The Wire, complaining about viewers who resort to subtitles to comprehend the Baltimore gangster argot. Speaking in terms opera purists would respect, he said it had been written to be not "immediately accessible" so that "audiences would have to work at it". Well, thanks a million, guys. We look forward to a TV series on Roman Britain – in Latin, please, and no cheating.Reuse content