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Tosca at Rome's Olimpico Stadium

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By Mike Clark

After the extremely successful "first" with Turandot at Rome's Olimpico soccer stadium last summer, the eternal city's Teatro Dell'Opera staged Tosca at the same venue this year. They kept the winning combination: a Meyer Sound system supplied by L'Aquila-based rental firm Agorà, and a sound team consisting of John Pellowe (of Pavarotti and Three Tenors fame) as Head of Sound/FOH engineer, and Daniele Tramontani, system designer and SIM operator. The event, held on the stadium's north curve, drew total crowds of almost 100,000 over six nights.

Flown from the stand roof, the two main clusters each had three MSL-5s, four DS-2s and three MSL-4s: the outermost box of each row was in mono, as was the downfill set-up (two UPA-1A underhung plus a single MSL-3 flown stage-center), the rest in stereo. Eight UPA-1As were used for front fill with six 650-R2s two-up on the floor on either side of the stage.

Regarding the combination of boxes, John Pellowe remarked, "The set-up's quite common for me. I don't usually use MSL-4s for downfill, but this particular venue lends itself to it. For sightline reasons, we used the good punch of the MSL-4s for intermediate downfill."

A novel touch was added this year with eight more MSL-4s flown behind the crowd. John explained, "Tosca is full of church bells, and we achieved a sort of 'surround sound' with the MSL-4s, creating the ethereal impression of bells from different churches."

Word has it that in the year 2000, there may be a full summer season. John said, "Next year they may expand to accommodate about 20,000 people. The sound system will be re-devised to cover a wider area, and I'm very anxious to retain visual and sound focus on the stage itself.

"One of the things I like about Meyer speakers is that you can look at venue designs and come up with something arrayable, but if you get into a venue and find that you've misjudged something, you can use the system very quickly to compensate for any venue deficiencies," John continued.

Monitoring was a particularly difficult job. "Monitoring for a show of this magnitude is no easy task, " John explained. "Once it's set up, I send all my monitor auxes pre-fade. That way, whatever I'm doing on the desk by way of fader doesn't effect what the singers hear on stage."

Daniele commented, "This opera was a lot different from last year's, and the audience expected subtlety in the sound. We had to take extreme care with delay and EQ. The SIM System II once again played a critical role and was used throughout the entire period."

December, 1998

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