At the end of last year, the Théâtre de Liège, in Liège, Belgium, moved into its impressive new home: the prestigious Société Libre d’Émulation building in the heart of the city. Built in 1779 but enlarged and completely refurbished by architects Pierre Hebbelinck and Pierre De Wit, the venue now offers room for two halls, an exhibition area and an 8 x 12m rehearsal room.
The investment came from the city of Liège, the province of the same name – of which the city is the capital – the Walloon Region and the Fédération Wallonie–Bruxelles, who together invested €23 million into the project, initiated in 2011. Prior to this, since 1976, the venue was housed in a “preliminary” building.
Through the project’s main contractor, Putman Theatec, Riva Audio Visual Solutions was appointed to take on the integration of the theatre’s new audio and video equipment.
“We bought our first L-Acoustics speakers, EX112s, back in 1994, so you might say we’re dedicated L-Acoustics users,” explains Pierre Dodinval, sound engineer at the Théâtre de Liège. “Apart from the fact that we’re very happy with the brand and its output, efficiency and polyvalent use, another key element in the choice was that we’re partners in a pool of theatres and festivals in Wallonia who invested in a substantial inventory of lighting, stage equipment, rigging engines – and L-Acoustics. This allows us to borrow extra equipment within the same brand. And L-Acoustics is a steady value on most riders of local and international artists.”
Dodinval says that in the main hall – named La Grande Main (The Big Hand), referring to the hand-shaped stands – the combination of 18 clustered KARA speakers, four SB18s (flown), four MTD112s (standing) and two SB28s, plus two 12XTs and six 8XT point source cabinets, is the perfect solution for the increasing demand for optimal sound dispersion. “And that’s why we opted for a line-array system instead of a configuration with delay speakers,” he continues. “The main venue has very steep stands, [where it’s] impossible to place delay speakers. Also, for architectural reasons, we had to decide for a dual source system, and the KARA fits in perfectly, right from the orchestra on stage into the hall, offering a sound quality we didn’t have before.” Six 12XT and four 8XT point source cabinets, in addition to the previously owned 112Ps and MTD112s, complete the main venue's sound kit.
In the smaller Salle de l’Œil Vert (the Green Eye Room), the audio consists of eight L-Acoustics 12Ps, four 108Ps and four 15P subs. Finally, the rehearsal room is equipped with four MTD 112 speakers.
Another bonus for the theatre was that the colour of the L-Acoustics speakers was almost similar to the parameters imposed for decorating the inside walls of the venue, making the installation almost invisible. Throughout the whole renovation and installation, the strictest sound regulation and acoustic parameters were implemented.
Alongside the Théâtre de Liège’s 557-capacity main venue and the Salle de L’Oeuil Vert, with a removable stands and room for 145 people, the theatre also uses the site of the Manège de la Caserne Fonck, a former military riding school. This modular polyvalent hall with a capacity of between 400 and 1500 people is used for large productions when stage dimensions (75 x 25m) play a key role.
Frédéric Vard, director of Riva Audio, says the installation of the speakers and rigging was subject to plenty of paperwork. “We had to obtain permission from the monuments and landscape ministry to drill holes in the ceiling to place the machinery for the rigging and L-Acoustics frames,” he says, adding that the configuration of the sound system is quite powerful in regards to the venue – high-performance in the field of SPL and sub speakers. “The assignment also included that the complete audio system, speakers, consoles and amp-racks should be flightcased and mobile, allowing the engineers of the Théâtre to use the system in other venues [like the Manège] or for touring shows’ convenience.”
Riva Audio Visual also supplied digital and analogue mixing consoles (two Yamaha LS9-32s, one Midas Venice F32 and two Soundcraft M Series M8s), Sennheiser wireless microphones, AKG and Neumann condenser microphones, and ElectroVoice, Shure SM and Beta series and Sennheiser MD series microphones – plus a full batch of peripherals.
With the bulk of the Théâtre de Liège’s programme being contemporary dance and theatre shows, the venue attracts major international productions. The theatre has also concluded partnerships with major European theatres and, in Belgium, is one of the prime locations in its field. “Today, concerts account for only 5% of the programme, but – like recently with the presentation of a new album by My Little Cheap Dictaphone – we are seeing that the Salle de L’Oeuil Vert is perfect for intimate concerts and showcases,” Dodinval concludes.