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In fair Verona, where we lay our Riedel cable…

... as Shakespeare might have written, had he been installing the the company's latest stage management system in the city’s 2000-year-old Arena amphitheatre. Mike Clark takes up his quill

Built almost 2,000 years ago, Verona Arena is one of Italy’s largest Roman amphitheatres, with a current seating capacity of 13,500. Performances at the venue, particularly the staging of opera events, attract audiences from around the world.

To streamline communication throughout the venue for technical teams working on such productions, the arena took delivery of a Riedel intercom/stage management system, in time for the 2014 opera season.

The bid for tenders for the system was won by Musical Box Rent from Lugagnano di Sona, whose Alessandro Bertoni (pictured below right) explains: “I believe the system’s the first of its kind installed in an Italian opera theatre and we hope others will follow the Arena’s example!

“The set-up combined traditional party lines (for staff requiring portable beltpacks) with ten stations equipped with 12- or 16-key panels and a full-duplex wireless system, divided into three communication groups and integrated with the matrix.DECT technology, which enables beltpacks to automatically select the antenna with the best signal in the huge venue. The upgrade was indispensable to facilitate communication in the Arena’s warren of corridors with dressing and store rooms, performer assembly points and technical areas – lighting/audio control, followspot ops, etc. – used for the spectacular opera productions, ballet and innovative shows, such as those by Fura dels Baus.”

The Riedel system was configured in such a way as to accommodate the integration of the public address system designed and installed some time ago by Prase Engineering (Community R2-474 three-way horn-loaded fibreglass loudspeaker systems, controlled by a Biamp AudiaFLEX processor).

Based on a Performer 32+16 matrix with three Cat-5 cards and an eight-port client card, the system included two Artist RCP 1112 OLED key panels (one at the Yamaha DM2000 stage monitor console, the other in the main control room), an Artist DCP 1116 OLED desktop key panel (at the Arena’s VENUE FOH console, pictured below right) and seven LCD key panels.

There were also five Riedel C22 AES-to-partyline interfaces, 18 Riedel Performer beltpacks and Air lightweight single-ear headsets and an Acrobat Digital Full duplex Wireless Intercom with four Riedel Acrobat antennas and six wireless beltpacks.

Bertoni continues: “I designed the system not only for communication between technical staff, but also for paging dressing rooms and performer assembly points. This has greatly simplified things and, being entirely digital, eliminated interference, making it more comfortable to use – previously, technicians were compelled to listen to hours of hum in their headsets!

“Above all, it has greatly rationalised conversations, reduced calls and enabled them to concentrate on their work.”

Musical Box Rent chose Syntax hybrid cables to connect the various zones, as the Cat-5e conductors have a larger cross-section than those of other manufacturers, reportedly “guaranteeing” better electrical performance.

Manufactured by Rivoli (Turin) headquartered manufacturer and distributor Valentini, the cables feature a power line with its own IEC-compliant PVC jacket for added safety, three Cat-5e cables for data signals and two AES/EBU digital pair cables.

Bertoni adds: “The cables were fundamental for ensuring an orderly infrastructure for signal distribution from the control room housing the matrix toe various points in the arena, and saved considerable time at the installation stage.”

The main control room (in one of the tunnels stage left) was connected to a patchbay under the stage, from which the cables ran to the rear of the stalls seating, lighting control and FOH audio control, announcement room, stage right and followspot towers.

The complexity of the venue’s layout meant that up until now the person paging artists had no less than four microphones, used with an analogue system including compressors and various duckers, to lower the “live programme”. There was also an intercom for internal communications. This season, a single Riedel panel (with just one microphone and headset/loudspeaker) was sufficient.

The season ended in September with a historical production of Verdi’s Aïda. Bertoni stated: “Being a monument open to tourists for the rest of the year, the system had to be dismantled and removed, but, judging by the positive feedback from all concerned, should be used as the basis for the call for tenders’ specs for next year’s season. We obviously hope to win this, and further implement Riedel technology in such an important venue.”

Photos: Ennevi (courtesy of Fondazione Arena di Verona)