Aida am Rhein
The live-to-air production of Verdi’s opera Aida am Rhein (Aida on the Rhine) staged recently by Swiss TV called on a large digital audio network comprising numerous Stagetec systems including three digital mixing consoles.

Only the third live opera production where the individual scenes only come together to form a whole on viewers’ television screens, the piece used various suites, terraces and rooms at the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois, the banks of the Rhine around the Mittlere Brücke and even on ships decks and pontoons on the Rhine – making it a considerablr logistic and technical achievement.

According to Rolf Allenbach, project manager and representative of TV production service company TPC, the project made high demands of the audio systems in particular. While the orchestra performed in a fixed location (the hotel’s ballroom), the soloists, the main choir, and the additional choir were spread all over the area, often several hundred meters apart.

The Aida production required a big OB truck featuring an Aurus console and an extensive Nexus audio network to integrate all the sites in a star topology. The final mix for the live broadcast was created in the vehicle. For the soloists’ premix Stagetec provided another Aurus together with operator Christian Fuchs – a highly experienced Mediagroup expert in live events for the music and theatre industries. On 1 October, however, he was in charge of creating the premix in a makeshift studio at the Grand Hotel.

TPC also relied on external equipment for the orchestra premix, hiring in the Ü1 radio truck from Gernam state-owned broadcaster Hessischer Rundfunk –  also based on Stagetec technology. The truck’s 10-year-old Cantus mixing console was integrated into the audio network for the production. Willi Zürrer, audio director for the Aida production, did the orchestra mix: ‘I already know this truck from the earlier live opera productions in Zurich and Bern,’ he says. ‘With the Stagetec-based audio-control workspace and its acoustic features, it is perfectly suitable for the application in hand.’

Many of the links in the audio set-up were created by Madi lines, avoiding one mixing console’s activities affecting any of the others. In particular, this meant that each engineer could adjust microphone gains individually and independently of the other consoles being fed from the same source. Another feature of the Nexus Madi boards helps to further simplify the networking by offering individual sample-rate conversion for each Madi channel. Thus there is no necessity for a common house clock for all the OB trucks. Another Mediagroup product – a new Delec commentary system – was used for translating the presentation.

Since the production took place in publicly accessible areas of Basel, safe cabling was a critical aspect. The thin and flexible optical cables used for networking the Nexus were easy to hide, secure and fasten. Otherwise, the production was characterised by the vast number of wireless systems. Selecting appropriate radio frequencies and aerial positions was a task for real experts.

Live events such as Aida am Rhein cannot be rehearsed repeatedly like in-house productions, however, the engineers met all the requirements of this complex task thanks to the well-prepared Cantus and Aurus project configurations and the snapshot automation these consoles offer.

While the live transmission was in stereo, Swiss TV will produce a DVD featuring a 5.1 soundtrack.

More: www.stagetec.com

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