There's an interesting quote from Edward Gardner, the new Chief Conductor at ENO, in an interview in the Guardian about their 2007/08 season. He was asked about surtitles. His reply:
"I am pretty pro surtitles," he says. "I am pro people from non- operatic backgrounds coming to opera - as I did growing up - and knowing what's going on. The interesting thing about the surtitles argument is that it is always conducted by people who sit in row A of the dress circle, where things are basically fine. But I saw my first 30 operas here in row ZZ of the balcony, and, you sometimes just can't hear the words. For people up there, surtitles are great."
I rather agree with that. Like Gardner I started listening to opera in English at the back of the Gods (in Manchester) and found the words inaudible.
I'll be posting more on the ENO new season announcement later today.