La Monnaie’s Main Auditorium, which welcomes audiences, with its red velvet seats, gilding, boxes, and balconies, is also a place of work.
“It’s the last night, the seats empty and the doors close. The Main Auditorium becomes a cocoon for rehearsals, it becomes just ours once again.” L.T., Head of Sound
The sequence of effects, sounds, and manoeuvres is established starting from the earliest rehearsals, and detailed in a cue sheet.
“There is a world of difference between the first cue sheet and the cue sheet for the premiere.” L.R., Stage Manager
The score is what ties them all together, under the direction of the stage manager, who communicates with them throughout the show.
When the doors open on the night of the premiere, when the audience settles in the auditorium to discover a new show, the work of the Sound and Lighting teams is not over yet!
They will always be there, hidden in the wings. There is no show without them! They are not onstage, nor are they in the spotlight, but they are in charge of all the sound, light, and video effects.
The show has not yet started; the audience is settling. Backstage, there is already total concentration. The start-of-show protocol is launched backstage: tuning of the orchestra, effect 49, the conductor enters the pit, applause, the doors are closed, effect 50… cue, house lights out! Everything is timed and planned with extreme precision.
The Deputy Stage Manager communicates with the entire stage management team, the stagehands, the sound and lighting technicians, and the Orchestra Operations Manager, who makes the call for the conductor to enter the pit.
The conductor’s entrance marks the start of the show.
“Son 1” (sound 1): can’t hear it? That’s normal. It is a sound below 20 hertz, inaudible to the human ear. The aim is to make these low frequencies felt in the auditorium.
The cues for MANOEUVRES are for the stagehands
The cues for SOUNDS and EFFECTS are the signals to launch sounds, lights, and video projections.
The Fura dels Baus collective from Catalonia, which staged Frankenstein, places innovation at the centre of its creative process. Videos, interactive sets, and lights contribute to creating the immersive experiences they present.
LED, HMI, and halogen: several kinds of lights were used for the lighting in Frankenstein. A hundred spotlights for approximately 50,000 watts of light!
Many of the LED lights were made at La Monnaie specifically for this production.
Nearly 400 metres of RGB LED tape were also used!
More and more, the scenery for operas includes video. The staging of Frankenstein made unprecedented use of video The videos and lights are put together in advance and then encoded on a computer. Our lighting and video technicians then check everything.
A combination of four powerful video projectors and all kinds of screens are used to produce spectacular projections!
Several mesh screens, placed on the stage at different depths, create a three-dimensional optical illusion.
The effects are developed on computers using mapping software that makes it possible for projections to be modelled in 3D and specific images to be allocated to particular screens, among other things.
Some of the footage used during the show was filmed beforehand, and some was recorded by La Monnaie video makers over the course of the rehearsals.
A sequence of manoeuvres, effects, and sounds combine to create a complete show.
The main job of the sound technicians is to manage the amplification (of the singers and instruments) and sound effects required by the staging or the score.
At rehearsals, the sound team starts off in the centre of the auditorium (in row Q, where the sound is best).
Although opera singers do not need a microphone to make their voices heard, amplification is often needed. Frankenstein, for example, combines spoken word and singing. A subtle balance must be found. Miniature microphones are concealed in the singers’ hair, wigs, or hats.
There is always a slight delay between the sound onstage and the sound in the orchestra pit. This is corrected by microphones positioned throughout the pit and by a discreet sound reinforcing system in the wings.
With the arrival of Covid-19, the sound teams laid 2 km of fibre-optic cable in order to transmit the voices of the choir to the auditorium so that the chorus could sing while observing the required social distancing measures. The chorus sang from the building behind La Monnaie, broadcast entirely live, led by the conductor who was filmed from the pit.