Frankfurt Opera

Among the most renowned opera houses in Europe, the Frankfurt Opera recently added d&b Soundscape technology to its d&b audio system. A d&b DS100 Signal engine was purchased in time for the 2019/2020 season, and the staging of a world premiere at the Bockenheimer Depot – Frankfurt Opera’s second venue.

‘It was a spatially complex work, with moving actors and an orchestra spread across the stage’ explains sound engineer, Margit Baruschka. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic the production was postponed to 2021. The decision was then made to move the entire Soundscape system to the Frankfurt Opera. Here it could be used to adapt some of the regular programme to accommodate social distancing requirements.

‘For a production of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, we moved the orchestra behind the stage,’ says Head of Sound, Christian Wilde. ‘Despite these unusual circumstances, we wanted to achieve a credible orchestral representation for the audience – and in this context Soundscape became our primary tool.’

d&b Soundscape is use on Frankfurt Opera's The Abduction from the SeraglioThe aim was for the orchestra sound as realistic as possible – something Baruschka values highly. But with large amounts of scenery onstage, very little direct sound could be heard from the musicians playing backstage, presenting something of a challenge for the sound engineers.

‘The premise is that you shouldn’t hear our work,’ Baruschka says. ’Ideally, the audience don’t even notice the electroacoustic support at all.’

To achieve this ‘illusion’, the venue placed loudspeakers in the orchestra pit. ‘We set up a whole battery of loudspeakers in the pit in order to let the main audio emanate from there,’ Wilde explains. ‘For opera, it is simply not acceptable for sound to solely come from above the proscenium.’

The team’s first experience with Soundscape has left them looking to a future with the new technology onboard. ‘It’s by no means the case that we regard Soundscape merely as a solution for special pandemic situations,’ says sound engineer, Lennart Scheuren. ‘On the contrary, we are supporting actors with microphones all the time. In future we will increasingly embed such signals in the sound reproduction with Soundscape and in this way achieve a more natural representation.’

For Wilde, wider benefits are also clear: ‘With conventional sound reinforcement, listeners who do not sit in the middle of the row will always perceive individual signals as coming more from the left or right, which makes it harder to be fully immersed in the music.

‘Soundscape enables us to stabilise the sound image over the visible width of the proscenium opening – even if there are no loudspeakers in that exact location. It’s being able to achieve this consistency of visual and acoustic perception, regardless of the individual seat, that is the decisive benefit of d&b Soundscape. And why it will be part of the future at Frankfurt Opera.’

More: www.dbaudio.com

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