Sound all around: a special recording session for the V&A

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Earlier this year Glyndebourne played host to a rather unusual, rather special, recording session.

Stepping into the Hector Studio that day, you are greeted by the sight of international opera singers Alice Coote and Danielle de Niese (pictured above) serenading what, at first glance, looks an awful lot like the detached head of a shop mannequin.

The singers are circling the object, moving closer then backing away, all the while giving a ravishing performance of the ‘Pur ti Miro’ duet from Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea.

The singers are being recorded binaurally by specialists from Sound Intermedia. The head shaped device, nicknamed Edmund, is a microphone which is able to record sounds in a similar way as perceived by the human ear.

The reason for all this? Over the coming autumn and winter the V&A Museum in London hosts a major new exhibition Opera: Passion, Power and Politics, which explores the story of opera from its origins in late Renaissance Italy to the present day.

Alice Coote and Danielle de Niese memorably performed the duet at Glyndebourne Festival 2008, as you can see in this short clip:

Told through the lens of seven premieres in seven European cities, the immersive exhibition takes visitors on a journey through nearly 400 years, culminating in the international explosion of opera in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The recording that Glyndebourne hosted that day is just one of the many fascinating elements of the exhibition being gathered by the curators under the guidance of the exhibition’s artistic director Robert Carsen.Through their headphones, thanks to the binaural technology, exhibition visitors will experience what it sounded like to be in Edmund’s shoes in the Hector Studio that day, receiving an up-close and personal performance from two top international stars.

An experience not to be missed.

Opera: Passion, Power and Politics at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) runs until 25 February 2018.