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Opera: virtual duets

With modern digital electronics and audio software we can do things hitherto impossible. Here we investigate "virtual music" and in particular, "virtual duets". In other words, we create duets - two voices singing together - that are physically impossible.

On this page, we use these tracks with full respect for these great singers, for purely research purposes, without any ulterior commercial motive.

Vieni o Levita

The basic material we used here is an opera aria, taken from Giuseppe Verdi's Italian opera "Nabucco" (1842). The aria in question is "Vieni, o Levita" from Act 2. The singer is the Russian bass Evgeny Nesterenko (Евгений Нестеренко). The track was recorded in 1983 under the direction of Giuseppe Sinopoli.

The virtual duet is sung by Nesterenko and Nesterenko. We combined the original track with the same track played backwards. The two tracks are gradually cross-fading from beginning to end.

In the beginning we hear mainly the original track, running forward. Nearer to the end, we hear mainly the second track, running backwards. In the middle of the aria, the singer meets .... himself.

It is surprising how well an opera aria sung in Italian can be played backwards. We are not yet sure whether it is the Italian or the human voice which lends itself particularly well for these exploits. Naturally, the reversed text is unintelligible, but one clearly recognizes it as Italian opera ....

Casta diva I

In another experiment the basic material we used is an opera aria, taken from Vincenzo Bellini's Italian opera "Norma" (1831). The aria in question is "Casta diva" from Act 1.

The singer is the Moldavian soprano Maria Bieshu (Мария Биешу). The track was recorded in 1986 under the direction of Mark Ermler.

In this experiment we hear Bieshu and Bieshu 20 seconds delayed in a virtual duet.

The optimal time delay was determined experimentally to get the very best duet-effect. One hears the singer responding to her own singing .... We added a bit of stereo effect to strengthen the impression of two singers on different sides of the stage.

Casta diva II

In this experiment, we combine the original track with the same track played backwards AND 20 seconds delayed. This became an unbelievably exciting aria. But listen and decide for yourself.