OSLO OPERA HOUSE
October 2008 Issue 110
Norway’s new, 450 million euro venue opens with innovative tracking system...
Since winning its independence from Sweden in 1905, Norway has been nurturing the idea of building its own great opera house. Last month, ahead of time and bang on budget, that dream has become a reality — and the country’s biggest cultural event for centuries.
At €450 million euros, paid for out of the public purse, this represents a notional sum of €100 euros per man, woman and Norwegian child. Built by the architects Snøhetta half in, half out of its waterside location in the Bjørvika district, this great theatre represents the beginning of a remarkable urban renewal, with other cultural institutions joining it over the next three years, transforming the city of Oslo.
Definitively modern from the outside, but with a traditional horseshoe-shaped auditorium built around a proscenium stage, this theatre houses 1,400 in its main hall, and another 400 in a secondary performance space. There are more than 1,000 rooms in the building, reached by the timber ramps crafted by traditional Norwegian boat builders.
The house is the seat of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, known in Scandinavia for its leaning towards avant-garde and experimental productions, and the artistic programme is also expected to include musical shows alongside the opera repertoire.
Buying local technology, Den Norske Opera has become the first international opera house to install the Stagetracker FX actor tracking and positioning system developed by fellow Norwegians TTA. The system was purchased from Scandinavian distributor Benum entirely on word-of-mouth recommendation.
“In 2006, the technical team at the Opera House was impressed by reports about the Stagetracker technology in action at the Royal Albert Hall in London,” explained Ronald Hernes of Benum, “and the system also comes with a strong recommendation from the influential Trøndelag Theatre in Trondheim.”
The National Opera House has installed a Stagetracker 16FXR, with the capacity to handle 16 tagged performers simultaneously on the large stage, which has two RadioEye infra-red detectors installed in the truss. The sophisticated hardware and software enables the positions of performers on stage to be tracked in real time, applying an actor’s position to his microphone signal so that his voice appears to follow him as he moves around the stage. The result is a more realistic and natural sound, making it easier for the audience to become immersed in the action and the story.
TTA has also supplied its FX Audio Editor which provides control and arrangement functions for sound effect playback.
“We all feel that Stagetracker offers the next step in theatre,” said Hernes. “It is the logical development now that the best houses have surround sound installations. The sound engineers at the Opera House are most excited about the TTA system. They see it as a piece of technology that will really help them to do their job better, allowing them to concentrate on their sound mix rather than audio positioning.”
Benum has delivered all the pro audio equipment to the National Opera House, including a ClearCom communication system, and a state-of-the-art Stage Manager system built on a TCP/IP network, with the ability to control all the elements of a show on a timeline or cue-based user interface.
In conjunction with YIT of Norway, Benum met a design spec from consultants Artifon AB of Sweden and COWI AS of Norway which included Renkus-Heinz loudspeakers, Yamaha digital processors and QSC amplification, with Stagetec’s Nexus network and Aurus mixing consoles comprising one of the biggest control systems ever built for an opera house.