Erkel Theatre

Opened in 1911 the Erkel Theatre in Budapest has been Hungary’s largest auditorium since. With a currently audience capacity of 1,819, it has been the Hungarian State Opera’s second performance venue since 1951. Most recently, it was closed for six years until 2013, when it reopened after extensive renovation. This, however, left it with a small sound reinforcement system, and the recent decision to stage musicals and other live music performances meant that a more modern solution was needed.

As the main Opera House prepares to close for its own renovation, the Erkel is preparing for musicals and music concerts, as well as the work of contemporary composers such as Michael Nyman and Hans Zimmer.

Nexo STM series PA systemThe new system was specified and installed by leading Hungarian installer Lisys-Project Kft. This is based around a Dante network, and uses Yamaha CL5 and CL3 digital consoles, with Rio3224-D and Rio1608-D I/O units, routed to a Nexo STM series PA system comprising 20 STM M28 omnipurpose modules, two STM B112 bass modules and six STM S118 sub modules, with four PS15 and four PS8 fills, all driven by NXAmp powered controllers with Dante cards.

Upgrading the theatre’s audio systems has taken place in three phases, adapting the capabilities of the technology to the theatre’s programming at the time. The first phase saw the installation of Nexo PS15 point-source loudspeakers with RS15 subbass as the main PA system. A monitor system of PS10s was installed on stage, with additional PS Series cabinets for mobile use, and the entire system was powered by NXAmp processor/amplifiers, running in analogue input-signal mode.

‘This PS system served the basic functions perfectly at a time when the theatre only hosted opera and spoken word performances,’  says Lisys-Project Engineer Ferenc Molnár, who supervised the design and installation. ‘The technical level of the system was tailored to this programming, and delivered excellent coverage and high SPL, even in this large space

A year later, Erkel expanded its PS Series system to handle the small-scale pop and jazz concerts now coming into the theatre. PS10 and PS15 cabinets were added to cover the front rows, and to act as side-delays for the balcony.

The theatre was becoming more popular with pop fans, and at the end of 2015, it decided to present a Hungarian production of Billy Elliot as its first large-scale musical theatre performance. This called for a modern high-specification line array system, and the choice was Nexo’s modular STM Series. The decision was based on the choices of the Erkel’s technical department, and the excellent working relationship with Nexo products and Lisys, Nexo’s distributor in Hungary – ‘nobody had heard the system when they made the decision, we did the demo afterwards,’ recalls Molnár.

Yamaha CL Series digital consolesThe Erkel thus becomes one of the first theatres in the world to install a Nexo STM line array using M28 omni-purpose modules, nine cabinets per side. Two S118 subs are positioned either side of the stage, and eight ID24 super-compacts are mounted across the front of the stage, to provide nearfield for the first rows. Additionally there is a LR stacked system, using M28 ands B112 bass modules, and an S118 sub.

‘Although it is large, the auditorium is a very simple space,’ explains Erkel sound engineer Jáhos Matuz. ‘We used Nexo’s NS-1 simulation software and SMAART v.8 to create the design, calculating the distances for direct sound. When we did set-up and fine-tuning, we did the measurements of reflected sound from the half-barrel ceiling and set the parameters on the system controller as necessary. The M28 arrays are throwing 42 metres to the furthest seats in the balcony, delivering around 98-100dBA in the stalls for Billy Elliott.’

A distinctive feature of the installation is that the STM arrays can be easily dismantled. When the Erkel is presenting opera and the line arrays are not in use, they are taken down to improve sightlines and scenery positions. ‘It is a big bonus that the STM M28 hangs are very easy to install.’ In opera mode, Matoz still has the option to use the other Nexo elements, which remain in situ.

ID24The monitoring system on stage and in the orchestra pit uses the Erkel’s inventory of Nexo PS Series. These bring the total number of Nexo cabinets in the theatre to more than 80, amplified by 16 NXAmp4x4s and NXAmp4x1s fitted with Dante cards to provide full network functionality.

The new system also allows Erkel Theatre’s technical team to be more versatile. The first production to use the new system was Billy Elliot the Musical, which saw both CL consoles and one of the R-series I/O located in the control room, with more R-series units in the orchestra pit and amp rooms. In contrast, for a recent concert, the CLs were in their traditional FOH and monitor positions, with the R-series units on stage.

For Billy Elliott, the Erkel is running 100 channels of audio through its Yamaha mixer, more than 26 of which are radio mic channels on a Sennheiser G3 Series system: ‘The natural sound of the STM is very musical without any manipulation, although a few tweaks set it very easily to personal taste.  The mid-range has a lot of headroom and depth, and the top end is clean.  In this production, the child’s voice can be heard very clearly, even with a large orchestral sound behind it.'

‘The Erkel Theatre now has one of the biggest Yamaha/Nexo systems in Hungary and the technical team is very happy,’ Ferenc reports. ‘From being principally an opera house, the theatre can now host a range of productions which will appeal to a much wider audience.’

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