The titles, which have been adopted by many companies since they were invented at the Canadian Opera Company in the 1980s, are most frequently used for translations. The ENO, however, performs exclusively in English, presenting both foreign-language operas in translation and English-language works.
In a statement, artistic director and CEO Sešn Doran said that the titles are a aprt of the company's mission to make opera more approachable.
"When Lilian Baylis founded this company in 1931, her mission was to make opera as accessible as possible," he said. "Surtitles as a tool are vital if ENO is to continue this mission and continue to attract audiences to the London Coliseum. I have no doubt that were Lilian alive today she wouldn't hesitate to introduce surtitles for the audience's benefit."
Doran told the BBC that patrons had complained about being unable to understand the words sung on stage. "The majority of the audience are really crying out for it," he said. "One problem is the size of the Coliseum. With 2,400 seats, its the biggest lyrical theater in the country. I've sat in the auditorium during performances and things are being missed—you hear the audience talking about it afterwards."
"There are definitely opposing views," he added. One or two performances of each production will be performed without the surtitles to allow audience members to avoid them if they prefer to.
The surtitles will begin with a production of Ralph Vaughan Williams' Sir John in Love in March 2006.