Canadian directs melancholy Dane to every seat in the house with help from d&b

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Another dilapidated theatre, another story of successful regeneration. Ho-hum. But then Robert Lepage stages a performance of his interpretation of Hamlet and the world begins to sit up and take notice. While Hamlet is the tale of a man who confronts his conscious self, the rebirth of the State Theatre of Nations, Moscow, is one man's confrontation with an entirely different state of being. Fortunately, Yevgeny Mironov's tale has a happier outcome, but the trials of resurrecting a once grand theatre that had, like Hamlet become insecure and unstable, are no less compelling.

Mironov, an ambitious young star of Russia's stage and screen, was appointed Artistic Director of the Theatre in 2006, just as it achieved independence. His initial verdict of the venue was, "It was a real disaster, the building looked like it had been bombed." It was closed for total renovation the following year and reopened in 2012.

"Seating in the auditorium was reduced from 1,065 to 600, making for a much more comfortable venue," explained the current Deputy Technical Director Yuri Romanov. "Progress was slow because this is a listed heritage building; I'm sure you can imagine how carefully the intricacies of Russian Architectural bureaucracy had to be negotiated? But a great deal was achieved, rebuilding the lower ground floor, adding a small second stage for experimental work, and extending the main building to accommodate two rehearsal rooms. Of course all technical facilities were replaced with state of the art equipment, light, video, sound, and stage mechanics; even a smart system that blocks mobile phone signals within the auditorium was installed."

The theatre reopened to great acclaim but problems with the sound system soon emerged, "Patchy coverage, poor intelligibility, variable frequency response; you name it, they had it," explained Alexandr Soloukhin, Head of the Complex Solutions department at audio specialist ARIS. "Feedback in the auditorium was not uncommon; this was totally inadmissible. A tragedy really, as the natural acoustics of the room are rather good."

It was at this point that Romanov was brought in to replace his predecessor and, being an expert in theatre sound himself, called in the services of ARIS. "I have favoured d&b audiotechnik systems for some time," explained Romanov, "In my early career as a sound engineer I'd used C-Series equipment, operating in a variety of venues. I knew the characteristic true constant directivity of the d&b systems would provide the solution; it only remained for Alexandr and the team from ARIS to design a system tailored to our needs."

Soloukhin explained his concept, "The theatre presents a brave mixture of contemporary drama and musical theatre; I think that's what attracts directors of the calibre of Robert Lepage. The system therefore needed to be able to respond to a greater dynamic range than might be expected in such a venue. That's reflected in the choice of loudspeakers; Yuri's beloved C-Series provides the main left/right at the Proscenium (Ci7-TOPs and Ci-SUBs), with B4-SUBs for extended low end. A centre cluster of E12-Ds and further E12-Ds to left and right portals, allows for a vocal lift when demanded. Delays, surround, and under-balcony fills are a mix of 10S-Ds, E4s and E6s. With a consistent musicality from all the various d&b Series, such a mixture of loudspeakers becomes entirely manageable, especially with d&b's R1 control software for system management. With a variety of programmed presets in R1 the system in turn is completely responsive to the varied demands of the theatre."

"The quality of sound is outstanding," commented Romanov, "and the system design by ARIS has been entirely sensitive to the needs of such a cherished building, the cable routing especially so." Sadly, Mironov's magisterial performance in Lepage's Hamlet (he performs all roles), ended 12th June 2014, but there are plenty of equally challenging performances for the habitué's of Moscow's theatre loving audiences. As Shakespeare himself reflected in Hamlet, the purpose of art is to hold a 'mirror up to nature.' Mironov would no doubt agree.

Photos courtesy of Yuri Bogoma.

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