ASL Opera!
American Sign Language Interpreting for Opera

Welcome to the ASL Opera Project where Janna Sweenie and David Boles are working to bring American Sign Language interpreting to Opera performances all over the world!

Scary Janna Sweenie in the rain

Read Our Interview with Opera Wire!
Opera Wire Q&A with David Boles and Janna Sweenie! Logo!

This ASL Opera Project was divined in order to right a wrong -- that the Deaf are not interested in Opera. This project will provide resources in performance and resources in conclusion to help bring the "high art" of Opera to a diverse, if disabled, audience.

The Deaf should no longer be excluded, ignored, and abandoned by the international Opera stage! Inclusion belongs to everyone!

Janna Sweenie as The Queen of the Night!

How does Janna -- a Deaf woman with some residual hearing -- interpret these arias in ASL? First, she has a printout of the lyrics in English. Then, she watches the video performance with English subtitles to learn the metrics of the staging. ASL is not English, so she then has to perform the interpreted translation of the singing into the language of the Deaf. For her recorded performance here, she listens to, and feels, the audio of the target aria video using her hearing aids and performatively interprets ==> via original aria language ==> memorized English-translated text ==> into her ASL visual performance... to present what you see. It's all a language memorization test with her splashes of brilliance to make it all make sense in context.

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If this were a live-interpreted ASL Opera performance, Janna would use the live text captioning in the theatre to translate her ASL interpretation in real time for the Deaf audience.

ASL Opera Lights Logo! We do not use any music in our interpreted arias because we do not have the Copyright to the source performance, that's why you need to simultaneously click on each video to see both the ASL interpretation and the performance being presented. They will sync up enough for you to get a good idea how the process will work in a live performance.

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In this video, Janna Sweenie takes on a fascinating interpreting task. In this song, "I colori del vento (Colours of the Wind) from the Pocahontas movie musical, Janna is interpreting, in American Sign Language, the Italian translated version of the song. The translation complication is this: Original song in English => translated for Italian audiences => translated from the Italian back into English (that honors the Italian interpretation) => translated into ASL... which is not based on the origianal English lyrics! You can see the difference in the interpretation of the intention of the same song, and that's why we chose this song, a non-Opera song, to demonstrate the mainstream complications in communicative inclusion!

Janna Sweenie interprets Diana Damrau performing the "Queen of the Night" aria from "The Magic Flute." In this performance, Janna has added a similar look, and feel -- in both costume and design -- to her interpretation. If this were a live stage interpretation, Janna would be dressed in regular performance blacks.

Janna Sweenie interprets the Elina Garanca aria, "Habanera (L'amour est un oiseau rebelle)" from Carmen.

Janna Sweenie interprets the Luciano Pavarotti aria, "Una Furtiva Lagrima."

In this example, Janna Sweenie interprets Maria Callas singing "O Mio Babbino Caro."

If you are interested in our help with the ASL Opera Project, contact -- -- and join our Discord server for more!

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