A Piece of History

Complete Renovation of an Historic Theatre in St Petersburg 

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Marble, gold, stucco and sumptuous red velvet – this is what Russia's historic theatres bring to mind. All over the country the goal of comprehensive renovation works is to preserve the precious buildings while bringing the technical equipment up to date. The BDT is the latest example with three different combinations of mixing components

In Russia, the performing arts have always played a key role, which is why today the country looks back on a long and rich theatre history. Some of the most famous theatres in the world can be found here including the Bolshoi and Maly theatres in Moscow and the Aleksandrinski theatre, the Mariinsky theatre and the Bolshoi Drama Theatre (BDT) in St Petersburg. All five venues have their origins in the 19th century, the Golden age of art, literature, opera and ballet in Russia. Of course, time has taken its toll. So all of these theatres have been, or are being, renovated currently. At the BDT, which is housed in a historic playhouse from 1878, these works are still in full swing. The renovation includes all areas. Of especial interest to us are the audio systems.

High Performance, Small Footprint

The BDT in St Petersburg is home to two stages, the main stage in the big hall and a further stage in the smaller hall. The house also has a rehearsal room, which is equipped with an audio system and a small recording studio. Four spaces, four different scenarios and hence, each with completely different audio requirements. Both the large and small halls with their control rooms require powerful mixing systems but space for housing control consoles is limited. In historic theatres this is a much more serious issue than in modern venues because at the time these buildings were conceived and constructed, nobody would have realised that one day such equipment rooms would be needed. This dilemma is particularly evident in the great hall where extensive signal routing and a highly flexible mixing console with a large number of inputs are needed. The ten NEXUS Base Devices plus a NEXUS STAR installed here are ample proof of the scale of the requirements. They provide I/O ports on the stage, in the pit, at the amplifier racks and of course in the control room. This would in fact be an obvious application for an AURUS system, however, its control surface footprint would have been too deep. Therefore, the BDT opted for a CRESCENDO with 32 fader strips. CRESCENDO uses the same audio-processing hardware as the AURUS but is controlled by a more compact console.

Scalable Components

Space is also an issue in the small hall control room. Here however, the technical requirements are much more modest, so the same compact control surface is used in combination with a smaller audio processor. An AURATUS has proven sufficient with its XCMC mixer card installed in a standard NEXUS Base Device – the only one in the smaller hall. A second AURATUS – also with 24-fader strips – undertakes the mixing tasks in the rehearsal hall. Again, as in the small hall, a single Base Device is adequate for the entire signal routing in the studio. Bolshoi Drama Theatre has always produced many music recordings, be it for playbacks for rehearsals, sound effects or capturing important performances for broadcasting or the archive. Therefore, the theatre houses a recording room with an impressive AURUS at its heart. Of the four consoles, this one offers the most extensive capabilities. Each channel strip includes 11 dual encoders – almost double the number found on the AURATUS and CRESCENDO consoles which have six dual encoders per channel strip. The AURUS design avoids multiple control function assignment, thus speeding up operation considerably.

Highest Standards

The audio system concept for the Bolshoi Drama Theatre in St Petersburg was derived from its renowned Moscow namesake. Of course, the audio systems at the Bolshoi theatre in the Russian capital are significantly more extensive since these premises have many more venues and other facility rooms. However, when selecting the components and designing their interaction, the general contractor of both renovation projects, St Petersburg based company TDM, which has equipped many large theatres in Russia, followed a very similar approach. This is not only evident in the mixing systems. Similarly, the stage-management system at BDT also relies on PerformanCeTRL. The same is true for the DELEC intercom system. Maintenance and renovation of Russia’s most important theatres follows the principle of specifying the most sophisticated state-of-the-art equipment, which will enable them to continue to make theatre history in years to come. Another house that has closed down temporarily and is on the verge of renovation is the Maly theatre in Moscow. It is the last of the aforementioned traditional playhouses with renovation and replacement of its audio systems pending. In common with its renowned fellows, it too will be equipped with STAGETEC technology in the near future.

Mixed Doubles

With two audio-processor variants and two types of mixing console, three different mixing systems are available for a wide variety of application scenarios. The console spectrum ranges from the large AURUS to the CRESCENDO and AURATUS to the most recent and smallest addition to the family, the ON AIR 24, which is the only one not employed in the newly refurbished BDT.

Mini but mighty: the AURATUS

AURATUS is a production, broadcast and live console with 54 input channels and a fixed bus layout. A single plug-in card hosted on a standard NEXUS Base Device provides mixer control and audio processing. Thus, AURATUS integrates seamlessly into any NEXUS network even without a NEXUS STAR. The handy control console is available stand-alone or as a drop-in unit with 8, 16, or 24 channel strips.

Compact and Powerful: CRESCENDO

CRESCENDO sits between the AURUS and AURATUS in terms of feature set and functionality. It uses components from the two other systems. AURUS contributes the controller (RMC) and audio-processor (RMD) cards and the control surface uses AURATUS hardware, which can however be extended up to 48 channel strips. The advantage of this combination is that the console is just about 60 centimetre deep making it eminently suitable for situations where space is at a premium. CRESCENDO configurations support up to 300 audio channels and 128 summing buses, making the console appropriate even for very large scale mixing projects.

Always Supreme: AURUS

AURUS impresses immediately with its large, user-friendly control surface and powerful audio processing. Each channel strip is equipped with 11 dual encoders and numerous keys, thus avoiding assignment of multiple functions to the same controls. The unusually large number of controls gives direct access to the desired channel parameters. The largest AURUS console built to date provides a total of 96 channel strips. Slot-in cards hosted by a NEXUS STAR take care of mixer control and audio processing. The RMC controller card and up to seven RMD processor cards provide AURUS with scalable performance capable of processing up to 300 audio channels. Among the STAGETEC consoles, the AURUS offers the largest feature set including a variety of automation modes, an extensive mix-minus matrix and comprehensive system-configuration options.