The Volksoper Wien, Vienna’s grand house for operetta, opera, musicals and ballet, is a cultural treasure housed in an equally treasured building, dating back to 1898. The historic venue is home to not only opera and theatre facilities, but is one of the few performance theatres in Europe equipped with recording and control facilities.

Flexibility is key: more than 150 singers, 95 orchestra musicians and 100 dancers are part of Volksoper Wien’s ensemble, which places high demands on the audio technology used in both the performance space and the recording suite. These facilities now also boast a Lawo mc²56 console, commissioned by Lawo technicians using remote-control technology.

Volksoper WienVolksoper Wien’s facilities are used to record both television broadcasts and concert performances – especially premieres – and also to create audio clips used during performances. All of the opera’s publicly available audio content is produced within its own walls.

To meet all of these demands and also prepare for the future, the Volksoper now has an IP-based mc²56 mixing console, commissioned in January to replace the first-generation mc²56 installed in 2012.

As with all live venues, the Volksoper has been affected by coronavirus, with safety measures leading to a standstill of stage operations, and only restricted access to the building and audio control room. These factors conspired to present unique challenges to the installation and configuration of the new console. Martin Lukesch, Volksoper Project Manager and Head of Sound and Media Technology, along with Lawo project engineer Daniel Egea, decided to approach the process using remote commissioning. In addition to the mxGUI software supplied with the mc²56 console, selected online conference media were employed, allowing for optimal interaction between Vienna and Rastatt.

The remote-control approach has become very familiar to Egea: ‘At the beginning of April, when coronavirus safety measures were still extremely strict and no one, not even the client’s own engineers, were able to carry out installations or factory acceptance tests on-site or at our premises, Lawo developed an infrastructure that enabled remote FATs,’ he recalls. ‘With continuing safety protocols around the world, we have worked to make remote commissioning and its corresponding workflow a standard part of our process. It’s now almost routine for us to supervise a project remotely.’

‘Like nearly everyone else, corona disrupted our plans,’ Lukesch adds. ‘If someone had told us at the beginning of the year that we would commission the new mc²56 console by remote support, I would have just shaken my head in disbelief. But it worked out beautifully. After the new console was delivered in May, the mechanical installation was carried out by the Volksoper crew using appropriate health-safety protocols. Then, using the online set-up, Mr Egea was able to read out all data remotely and create new Compact Flash cards for the console, and remaining adjustments were then made again by remote maintenance. All data and production content were transferred, and everything worked without any problems.’

The 32-fader mc²56 features 96 DSP channels and offers a routing capacity of 8,192 x 8,192 crosspoints. It supports SMPTE 2110, AES67/Ravenna and Dante, all optimised for IP video production environments. Button-glow, colour backlit touch-sense encoders and colour TFTs provide clear colour coding of channel strips for better visibility and fast access, even in low light conditions, and Lawo’s LiveView technology provides thumbnail displays of video streams on the fader channel displays.

The mc²56 offers features tailored specifically for theatre and live performances, like Selective Recall, Oversnaps (relative trim sets), comprehensive theatre automation via Cue List with various triggers (Midi, GPIO, LTC), integration of Waves SoundGrid and Neumann DMI-8 digital microphones, and mirror console operation.

During a normal September-to-June performance season, the programme of Volksoper Wien’s 1,337-seat repertory theatre includes dozens of different productions with almost 300 performances. This year, the final performance took place on 10 March, but rehearsals re-started in June. On weekends, the Volksoper is currently presenting concerts for a maximum of 100 listeners in the auditorium, with regular performance operations scheduled to re-start in September.

The new season will open with Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, followed by Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate. The premiere of the musical Sweet Charity is presently planned for 13 September, with ‘Big Spender’ posted on Youtube as an appetiser for the Volksoper production – recorded using the Volksoper’s new mc²56 console.

‘Everyone – the ensemble, the musicians, the technicians, and our colleagues from the various trades – is glad that there is once again the possibility to have a largely normal season,’ Lukesch says. ‘Even though we are already familiar with our new console through training and experience with the previous Lawo console, we will gradually be able to fully explore the possibilities of our new mc²56 in day-to-day operation, and I am very much looking forward to that.’

More: www.lawo.com

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