The Flying Dutchman

August saw a production of Richard Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman brought to 1,000 socially distanced Lithuanian opera fans for the first time on the slipway of the Paul Willy Lindenau shipyard complex in Klaipėda. Performed by the Klaipėda State Musical Theatre and featuring soloists including Sandra Janušaitė, the event called on dual DiGiCo SD12 96-channel mixing consoles with two SD-Racks and D2-Racks.

Changing weather presented leading Baltic audio rental company NGR Service with major challenges from the outset. ‘The setting in the historic cruise ship terminal made for a unique and spectacular location, but it also meant dealing with rain and winds of up to 20m/s while thinking of how to make the orchestra and soloists sound as natural as possible,’ says NGR FOH Engineer, Tomas Ždanovičius.

‘On top of the weather challenge, we also had to deal with constantly moving actors across a 50m stage, or even outside the stage area at times, as well as special effects such as falling water and a real-life ship appearing during the performance. There were definitely one or two “firsts” for us in this production.’

Paul Willy Lindenau shipyard complex in KlaipėdaNGR chose the DiGiCo SD12 console to give the team the ease of operation, fast function selection, and ‘without doubt, the best sound of any console currently on the market’. With sharp technical minds and top-quality equipment, the team was able to fully realise the creative production of Concept and Artistic Director, Dalius Abaris.

‘When it came to sound, it seemed that everything was against the NGR team,’ says Abaris. ‘On location, the sound engineers repeatedly analysed and evaluated wind speeds as well as rigging positions of the sound system depending on where the audience would sit, which would sometimes change on a daily basis due to the latest Covid restrictions. One day we had one ground floor layout, the next day another.’

Impressed by the professionalism the NGR team showed in the face of such adversities, Abaris explains how the team to ensured every member of the audience was served: ‘Another complexity was, of course, the stage size,’ he adds. ‘This was a big challenge, not just for the sound team but also for the performers. When people are separated by over 40m distance, the monitoring systems visibility and relationship with the conductor all have to be watertight, so to speak, not to mention the main PA and the delay systems.’

One of the two SD12 consoles served the soloists, orchestra and special effects and submixer return groups, while the other was used as a submixer for the choir’s 48 personal headsets. In total, between the two desks, 146 channels were used, exncluding FX returns.

‘The scale of this production was just immense, and I didn’t hear a single artist saying that they felt uncomfortable singing, which is a major credit to the team’s abilities,’ Abaris reports. ‘The installation of the sound equipment was a long process, as the team had to rig the system on an over-a-century-old shipyard construction. They had to measure everything very precisely before putting up the three main PA clusters and the delay lines. The panning of the soloists was so accurate that the audience’s attention was focused on where the sound was coming from. It was definitely a feat to behold.’

The entire set-up included 70 wireless systems for the opera performers with omnidirectional headsets, and a further 50 systems for the orchestra with clip-on lavalier mics and more. DiGiCo’s SD12 became invaluable when dealing with the soloists, who were in seven fixed positions across the stage, which was configured in ‘layers’ of around 50m in width.

FOH Engineer, Tomas Ždanovičius

‘This was all dealt with by having pre-programmed panoramas in different snapshots, with manual pan movements as necessary,’ explains Ždanovičius. ‘The audio material for the entire show was recorded in multitrack and having the ability to expand the console with DMI cards was very convenient.

‘Additionally, it was useful to be able to arrange the layout of the console in any way needed, as well as having all necessary channels next to each other – independently of the input list positions,’ he adds. ‘Finally, having two separate touch sensitive screens made my work as fluid as it can ever be.’

Broadcast live on Lithuanian national television, LRT (Lietuvos radijas ir televizija), Wagner’s operatic feast passed with flying colours and was met with standing ovations by a fascinated audience. ‘This was probably the first opera in Lithuania where there was no criticism from musicologists, critics or sound professionals – certainly that I’m aware of – so it was a complete success all the way,’ states Abaris.

‘Working with the best orchestra and leading soloists of Lithuania requires the best sound quality, because everyone, from production directors to choir members, knows how the orchestra should sound,’ concludes Ždanovičius. ‘This is why DiGiCo consoles are chosen for these types of events – we can always trust the equipment. We particularly valued the system flexibility we gained with DMI cards: in this particular production, with the help of DMI cards and UB Madi we could split all the inputs to the OB van, multitrack recording (main and backup), submixer and FX computer, which made the entire workflow seem like a serene ocean breeze amid the storms and salvation of this magnificent production.’


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