On a cold, clear winter day, we consider ourselves lucky to have been invited to join the visit to the Gera theatre hall. The exterior already demonstrates that the redevelopment measures are bearing fruit, with the 1902 building’s Jugendstil façade shining in all its original splendour. The main entrance connects to a smaller, contemporary glass construction. During the refurbishment works to the historic building this was used as a provisional solution, hosting the events scheduled for the season. Today, the glass foyer is used as a space for experimental theatre and by the administration. The main stage has returned to the “Großer Saal” and the equally splendid concert hall of this historic building.
The Main Hall
Seating around 550, the main hall abounds with magnificent stucco and gold ornamentation, carefully preserved during the refurbishment. A big stage with impressive machinery, an incredibly fast stage revolve and a huge orchestra pit make this venue ideal for the most diverse events. Nonetheless, the hall also used to have one signifi cant drawback: its reverberation time is extremely short, which may be a good thing for stage plays, but simply won’t do for musical performances.
The problem was solved by means of 46 small and invisible coaxial two-way speakers built into the walls and the ceiling and a digital system enabling the operator to stretch the reverberation time. This approach is once again proof of the fact that a weakness can indeed be turned into a strength: it allows the artistic director of »Bühnen der Stadt Gera« to tailor the ambience to each performance, while the audience is completely unaware of what is going on behind the scenes.
Of course, the system’s small speakers can do more than just simulate reverberation, they can also be used to reproduce direct signals received from the comprehensive NEXUS audio network. Using the speakers for things other than simulating reverb is therefore a doddle – and we are sure the creative team will take advantage of this feature for experimental productions in the very near future. The reverb system is complemented by a regular public address system. Rather large for the size of the hall, it will provide ample power and clarity for rock concerts and pop events.
Audio Cues Or Public Address?
The hall’s audio system can be used in various ways, depending only on the type or genre of the performance at hand. An opera performance may require a sonorous thunder effect in the second act, while the musicians and singers need no sound reinforcement. Contemporary compositions, extravagant productions or rock/pop concerts, on the other hand, are totally dependent on a high-quality public address system. Thus a venue with the flexiblility of the one in Gera needs both a control room and a PA console in the hall.
The people in Gera came up with a creative answer: for events requiring a PA system, the control room’s sliding door can be opened. The AURUS console can then be wheeled into the back of the hall with a minimum loss of seats and with the audio cue system now doubling as PA console. The AURUS console can be expanded with a 16-strip channel module for direct access to additional channels. In this way, 48 channel strips and ten layers for up to 96 audio channels become available. That should suffice for mixing even large-scale events involving all 32 radio mics, additional microphones and external sources.
Expanding the AURUS console with an additional fader unit is simple: all you need do is connect the fader unit’s optical link to the second optical socket on the AURUS RMC card located in the machine room. Like the entire AURUS processing, that card is installed in the NEXUS STAR main frame. The fader unit itself, which is in fact a remote controller for the AURUS processors, only requires a power connection and the optical link to the machine room via a dedicated socket in the main hall.
Flexible And Mobile
The multiplicity of sockets for optical connections proves to be a highly practical and flexible solution. In one sense, the building is 12 covered by a huge optical spider whose legs are connected to dedicated outlets in the walls and on the floor. The main hall, the separate concert hall, the production studio and even the foyer are fitted with several optical sockets providing a direct link to the central NEXUS audio network. An optical patchbay in the machine room allows users to link each optical line to the two mobile NEXUS Base Devices or to a mobile AURUS. The AURUS console in the main hall is indeed complemented by a 16-fader AURUS version for use in the production studio or as a mobile unit anywhere on the premises. The second AURUS and the fader expansion are mounted on trolleys with a tilting mechanism. In the upright position, the two units can be moved using the passenger lift and wheeled to any important location inside the building.
From Any PC
Obviously, lighting, stage machinery and video are by no means the only areas to benefit from computer-control – even in theatres. The NEXUS audio router and the control software for the wireless microphones as well as the audio cue system, and the content management system for video playback are also included. For added flexibility and intuitive operation, all of the venue’s operational computers are connected to a so-called CAT centre, i.e. a KVM system capable of routing the keyboard, monitor and mouse of any computer via conventional ethernet to any of the connected systems.
This highly convenient system allows any user to control any computer on the network. An audio engineer in the control room can, for instance, use his computer to control the NEXUS system, to monitor the status of the power amps, to set the radio mics and/or to start and stop the foyer’s video system.
The Theatre and Music Venue in Gera
Thuringia has a long tradition in theatre and cultural life and the former Hoftheater has always played an extraordinary role at its heart. The sensitive refurbishment of the architecturally important building has been undertaken in accordance with the needs of preservation. This and the renewal of the stage systems have now opened up new horizons and a very promising future.
The Theatre & Philharmonie Thüringen association is the last performing arts organisation in Thuringia truly worthy of the name. The association runs several theatres in Gera and the repertoire is unrivalled: Opera, drama, musicals and operetta, puppet shows, experimental productions, ambitious dance performances and theatre for kids are enthusiastically welcomed by around 165,000 visitors every year. Now that the technical systems have been comprehensively updated and the acoustics optimised, the future is indeed bright for the performing arts in this region.