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Meyer Provides Sound for First Roman Coliseum Concert for 1500 Years!


"It achieved what we set out to do precisely. What more could we ask for?"

- Hubert Westkemper
system designer

An historic event happened this past July 23rd. For the first time, the sound of amplified music wafted through the Roman Coliseum, as Italian conductor, composer, and pianist Franco Mannino opened the Teatro dell'Opera's summer season with Missa Solemnis pro Jubileo Domini Nostri Tertiio-a concert dedicated to Mother Theresa. This would be the first concert held in the Roman Coliseum in at least 1500 years, and Meyer Sound systems were chosen to provide perfect reproduction of the complex program thoughout the arena.

Agorà, a renowned Italian rental company, supplied the audio equipment, with Grisby Music providing the Meyer components, working closely with system designer, Hubert Westkemper. Sound reinforcement would encompass a 100-member classical orchestra, a choir of over 100 members, four soloists, and a wide range of percussion and other instruments from all over the world. A select audience of 700 would be seated in three long rows positioned close to the stage, while the general public was free to roam the upper Coliseum halls. The challenge for the sound designers was to bring the same concert-quality sound to both the seated audience and the crowd on the upper levels of this ancient amphitheatre, standing 161 feet tall, measuring 600 feet long by 500 feet wide and occupying some six acres.

Westkemper explained that he first addressed the varied distances between the seated audience and the stage, ranging anywhere from 2.5 meters to 29 meters, depending on each seat's location. He then dealt with the nature of the sound itself. Due to the diversity of instruments, many needed to be amplified individually, requiring 80 onstage microphones. Loudspeakers were then placed directly on the stage and carefully delayed. Grisby Music President Lorenzo Benigna commented that the equalization and delay were achieved through the "indispensable aid of the Meyer SIM system."

To avoid feedback Westkemper created a huge front-fill section made up of 10 UPM-1P and four UPA-1P Self-Powered loudspeaker systems. All UPM-1Ps were positioned vertically on the stage floor front, facing the audience, and tilted upwards 20 degrees; while two UPA-1Ps were positioned at either end and angled towards the audience. Westkemper says he chose the compact Meyer devices because of their ability to reproduce high timbre and dynamic quality while still providing a very low profile on stage.

Westkemper then put his attention to the listeners in the high tiers. "Because they enjoyed little of the direct sound from the orchestra, I was obliged to include four diffusion points, each comprised of three Meyer MSL-4s with complementary subwoofers, flown eight meters high on four towers. This provided exceptional sound to those in the upper sections of the audience." Two USW-1Ps and two 650R2 subwoofers were used for long excursion with minimal distortion.

Franco Mannino's concert featured the Costanzi Choir (led by Arturo Sacchetti) and Orchestra (conducted by Marcel Seminara), with the four soloists: Darina Takova (soprano), Ekelejda Shkosa (mezzo-soprano), Luca Canonici (tenor) and Michele Bianchini (baritone). The audience soared to the sounds of beautiful music, thanks to a system capable to deliver the highest quality sound to all. Westkemper summed it up this way, "It achieved what we set out to do precisely. What more could we ask for?"

November, 2000







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