Orfeo ed Euridice gets the best of both worlds using DiGiCo


Live productions rarely come as unique as De Utrechtse Spelen’s depiction of Christoph Willibald von Gluck’s opera, Orfeo ed Euridice, which, this Summer, under the direction of Jos Thie, descended on the ample pond within the grounds of Soestdijk Palace in the Dutch Province of Utrecht,. For all of the shows, which were held during June and July, Utrecht-based Ampco Flashlight Rental supplied all sound and lighting requirements, with a DiGiCo SD7 for the FOH position, and a DiGiCo SD9 for monitors.


Set entirely on water, and accommodating 1,800 people per show, Orfeo ed Euridice fuses music, theatre, and a stunning location literally fit for Royalty (the Palace is the former home of the late Queen Juliana). It is based on the classical myth of the singer Orpheus, who was said to have been able to ‘move even stones to tears’ with his bewitching voice and exceptional string playing, and tells the story of Orfeo, a talented vocalist that touches nature when he sings; and his deceased lover Euridice, who is stuck in the underworld.


In the production, Amore, the god of love (and also said to represent Queen Juliana, due to her close connection to the Dutch people) decides that Orfeo may bring his lost love back to the land of the living, but on one condition: he may not look at Euridice until they have returned from the underworld. In short, he finds this nigh on impossible, but in the end, and keeping with tradition – that all Royal operas must have a happy ending – Amore decides that Orfeo can have her anyway!


Because of the setting, this production provided quite a number of challenges on the audio side, particularly in terms of monitoring, as engineer Jelmer Dijkstra reveals.


“Because opera singers normally rely on their inner voice and how the room and the orchestra sounds acoustically, they found it hard to stay in tune and keep focused,” he says. “Many had never used in-ears before, but after rehearsals, and some tweaking and playing with reverbs [on the DiGiCo SD9], we were able to reach a workable situation where they felt comfortable to perform.”


Dijkstra’s mix position was directly behind the ‘floating’ orchestra pit, which he insists was the best place, and proved no problem at all due to good communication with FOH and some video monitoring.


“Putting my console here meant we had the shortest cable runs, and they can become quite an issue at a location like this,” he adds. “Overall, the SD9 is a great, fantastic sounding console, because it gives me all the freedom I want and allows me to configure my mixing desk perfectly for any production; and being such a small footprint, it was absolutely perfect for this show.”


Dijkstra ran 36 inputs and eight mixes in total; and connected the local I/O to the DiGiCo D-Rack, taking an aux MADI out of one of the [DiGiCo] SD7-racks for the three main opera singers. He also received some sub mixes of the orchestra and the choir from FOH engineer Harry Zwerver’s SD7 to make sure he got the right blend of the two for the in-ear mixes. 


Zwerver was brought in by the head of technical production, Ramon Snel, to do the last 20 shows, and opted for the SD7 for its versatility and ease of use. His channel count exceeded 75, including 36 for the orchestra, 24 for the choir, and five for the three main singers, and he used very little outboard due to the console’s inbuilt FX.


“The main challenge I had with these shows was to create as natural a sound as possible, and when working with DiGiCo consoles, I find everything is possible,” he states. “The way the SD7 is designed and laid out is just so good; it’s a really great desk all round.”


“This is a complex production,” says Ampco Flashlight’s Dieter van Denzel “We worked closely with the audio team to provide a number of innovative solutions, which are not only technically appropriate, but also help to provide the audience with a traditional operatic feel. The DiGiCo consoles have played a major part in helping us achieve this.”


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