8 NOVEMBER 2003, Page 40

Magnificent signing

From Robin Hitchcock Sir: As a profoundly deaf opera-goer, I was absolutely appalled to read Max Hastings's diary entry in your magazine (25 October) regarding a signed opera at the Royal Opera House.

The 'madwoman' he described is Wendy Ebsworth — acknowledged to be one of Britain's best signers and a woman honoured by the Queen for her skills; skills which have opened the world of theatre and opera to deaf opera-lovers, who would otherwise have no access to this wonderful art form.

What were, in the eyes of Mr Ignoramus Hastings, waving arms, are an amazing fast flow of gestures, smiles, grimaces, hands, fingers, arms: a whole thesaurus of the English alphabet, as every word, every emotion has its own sign. It is an achievement so magnificent that sometimes at the end of a performance the actors and actresses acknowledge the signer with applause before they accept that of the audience.

Robin Hitchcock

London NW8