Zorro Rides Again

Internationalism at its best: Spanish flamenco, Russian actors, American sound design and a German AURUS 

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It’s five years since AURUS proved itself for the first time as a mixing-desk for musicals. At that time, German Stage Entertainment, the leading musical production company in Germany, sent its production of Aida on tour, supported by an AURUS together with NEXUS. Meanwhile, STAGETEC technology has gained an excellent reputation on the international musical production scene and, wherever quality matters most, it has become simply the tool of choice

It was not yet obvious at the time of the Aida production but the AURUS deployment also marked the beginning of the end of an era. At least in Germany the writing was on the wall for analogue touring consoles in the musicals business. It took another four years until a little piece of this digital wave washed over to the USA. A new version of the musical production Wicked was intended to go on tour with reduced touring equipment. The solution was a digital NEXUS audio network, which replaced the previous copper analogue cabling. Internationally renowned sound designer Kai Harada was in charge of the tour.

»Wicked Management said they want to make the second tour smaller. Compared to the first tour the only thing we could change was cabling. Because the theatres are the same, the cast is the same size, the orchestra is the same size, we couldn‘t take away speakers, we couldn’t take away microphones. But we reduced cables by at least half by using the NEXUS system.«

Working with NEXUS convinced Harada to such an extent that the next co-operation was not long in coming. Since the end of 2010, another joint production of Stage Entertainment, with Harada as sound designer, relies on STAGETEC technology: the musical Zorro in the MDM Palace Theatre in Moscow.

»Zorro had been produced in London and Paris with a different sound designer. The music was composed by the Gipsy Kings, and obviously the guitar was very important, but for the show in Russia they cut one of the guitars. It was quite a challenge to make the show sound big even though there were only seven people in the orchestra – two keyboards, bass, drums, percussion, two guitars and a third guitar on stage.«

The musical in Moscow‘s MDM Palace Theatre tells the story of the legendary Zorro, fighting the eternal struggle of good and evil with daring sword fights and breathtaking acrobatics. During the day, Zorro lives a quiet life as a minor aristocrat, Don Diego de la Vega, in the countryside. But at night he transforms himself into the avenger of the oppressed, wearing a black cloak and mask!
Zorro is now almost a hundred years old and the subject of numerous books and films. The musical was produced in co-operation with Isabel Allende who, in 2005, published an adaptation of the story as a novel. For the musical, the music is composed by the Gipsy Kings and John Cameron.

However, in contrast to broadcast and in comparison with the classical genres such as opera, concert and theatre, digital audio technology has still a long way to go until it gains a strong foothold in the world of musical production. The frequent performances, high price of admission and of course, the massive console function capacity required for musicals are some of the reasons for the hesitant entrance into the digital age. And for good reason, an unreliable console can cost the organizer a lot of money if a performance has to be aborted or cancelled completely. On the other hand, analogue mixing consoles have now reached an age where the risk of failure is now much higher than that of their long-established digital counterparts. This is true certainly for STAGETEC consoles at least, which have established a very good reputation for reliability.

»I found the NEXUS system very easy to use; it was relatively easy to come up with a system for Wicked in America, and it was also easy to set up. It‘s been absolutely great; very stable, and I absolutely love the way it sounds.«

The sound mix of a musical makes extraordinarily high demands on a mixing console. As a rule, a great many input channels are connected – between 100 and 140 channels is far from unusual! If the sound operator is to keep everything under control during the show, the desk must have not only sufficient logical channels but also a relatively large number of physical channel control strips. In addition, it’s an essential condition that every channel control strip
gives direct access to the most important parameters, i.e. that it offers controls not only for levels and panning but also for EQ, buses, routing and dynamics! Here lies one of the many AURUS strengths. Since its debut in 2002 as the »Direct-Access« console it has featured an almost analogue style control surface. For two-person-operation, which is common during the setup phase, this is an important consideration.

»The thing that I like most is that it sounds great. That is the most important thing. At the end of the day, what comes out of the speakers sounds really, really good and that is what matters.«

When it comes to automation, a digital AURUS is superior to an analogue desk as a rule. Over many years in theatres all over the world, the scene automation has been tested and improved constantly. Today it encompasses the entire functions of the desk and has become an important tool for mixing musicals. The ever more complex productions require scene-by-scene changing of the routing, control over external effects machines and players and a large quantity of logic functions.
These logic control requirements can be quite complex as Zorro demonstrates. Some scenes require the playback of pre-produced sound effects at exact points in the music. Responsibility for starting playback at the correct bar precisely rests with the conductor - not the sound operator. For this reason, the conductor’s desk has a push button installed which triggers a logic input in the adjacent NEXUS base device. NEXUS then generates a MIDI command which triggers the player to reproduce the desired effect. However, to ensure the correct effect is played out; NEXUS first checks the position in the console scene automation list before it generates the MIDI command.
This ingenious combination of NEXUS logical functions and AURUS scene automation is especially useful when events have to be started in mid scene. In a scene where no playback is required, the push button is disabled. This guarantees that the list is always in the right place and will not jump to the next scene accidentally as would be the case with a less intelligent solution. Without this logic circuit, the conductor would have had to be provided with a custom labeled MIDI panel with a dedicated connection to the effects player via long MIDI lines with repeaters.

»The conductor hits a button that triggers a NEXUS GPI event which tell the AURUS to send a specific MIDI note back to a computer which plays the click track. We used a lot of these features, plus just simple on/off commands for microphones, through the NEXUS.« 

The eight channel Zorro sound effects are played back by a Macintosh computer backed up by another player which operates synchronously. If problems occur, the sound operator can switch to the backup machine without interruption – another security feature which is by no means standard everywhere.
The venue for the musical, the MDM-Palace Theater in Moscow, was a conference centre until it was refurbished. Therefore, conversion into a musical venue is not without its challenges. There are no balconies and all the seating is on one level with a much shallower rake than is typical in a purpose built theatre. The auditorium is also particularly wide at the rear and both these factors impact the PA system.

»Just filling this really big room with as much sound as possible without being too loud – system-wise I had a lot of surround speakers because at the beginning of the show the cast comes through the auditorium to get on stage. For a lot of that it was very useful having AURUS to do programmed value changes, level changes for cues at the beginning and for special effects. That was great.«

To achieve front localization for as many seats as possible and to provide an accurate perception of the position of actors on the stage, Harada opted for many single speakers each of which could be addressed individually. One of his trademarks is the use of a relatively large number of speakers to create quasi parallel FOH systems for the various signals, for instance one for the voices, another for the music, and a third for the effects. Thus, the various signals are mixed only at the acoustic level. This prevents unpleasant reciprocal effects and enables a more transparent sound to develop.

»A musical is usually more complex than a rock-and-roll show. For me, and especially on Zorro and on other shows I did in the past, it is important that it still sounds natural – that you still think the sound is coming from the performers. And that is about system tuning and balancing and telling an operator how it should sound.«

In this arrangement, NEXUS is not only in charge of routing the sums to the correct PA speakers but also responsible for adding the individual delay to each signal. In this way localization is enhanced, reinforcing the spectator’s perception that the sound emanates from the stage, not from loudspeakers.
Thanks to the AURUS’ N-1 matrix there is no practical limit to the number of signals that can be mixed individually. The matrix offers the capacity for up to 96 separate sums – which is of course just a theoretical number for an application such as this! However, 26 different sums are mixed for Zorro, not including the monitor mix for the musicians since this is realized independently via an Aviom system which makes it possible for the musicians to create their own individual mixes.

»Two Spanish guitars play the show and they were training a third one who was Russian. There are six Flamenco dancers from Spain in the show and they were also teaching the Russian actors as well. The production has a Russian company, a British director, a French music supervisor, French sound company, Dutch Lighting company, my German associate, Christian from STAGETEC Germany, me from America, and not to forget a great Russian sound crew, including the extremely talented mixer Sergey Korneyev – that was really great.« 

The sound design of a musical is constructed from many small mosaic tiles. In an ideal world, they all complement each other in the end to create a colourful and vivid sound picture. So far, this has been true for every sophisticated musical that has been supported by STAGETEC technology. Incidentally, there is another show running currently with very similar requirements. Kai Harada is also in charge of the sound design for Hinterm Horizont (Beyond the horizon), a German musical at the Berlin Theater am Potsdamer Platz. The Stage Entertainment Germany production employs the company’s second AURUS/NEXUS system for the audio. That says it all – the perfect sound production will be crowned a success again in 2011! 

Kai Harada (left) is a freelance sound designer working globally on musical productions. For many years he worked with Tony Meola, a long-established New York sound designer. Above all, he believes his main task is to plan the whole audio system including the FOH system and the microphones, to arrange the mixing and to program the system together with the show operator until the sound corresponds with his conceptions.
In addition to Kai Harada, we thank Michel Weber (right) of Stage Entertainment Germany and Christian Fuchs for all the information and their support! 

TV and Radio Broadcast

AVATUS & NEXUS/NEXUS STAR

  • HSE24 Home Shopping Europe AG  Ismaning, Germany
  • RSI Broadcast Center  Lugano, Switzerland
  • tpc Metechno, Broadcast Center  Zurich, Switzerland

AURUS & NEXUS/NEXUS STAR

  • Antena 3 Madrid (TV)  Madrid, Spain
  • ASTRO (Malaysian satellite television) Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Anhui TV  Hefei-Anhui, China
  • Auditorium Rai di Napoli  Naples, Italy
  • BBC Scotland Glasgow, United Kingdom weiterlesen blau 2019
  • BR Bayerischer Rundfunk  Munich, Nuremberg, Germany weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Canal 9  Valencia, Spain
  • CCTV  Beijing, China weiterlesen blau 2019 weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Crow TV-Studio  Tokyo, Japan
  • Deutschlandradio  Berlin, Cologne, Germany
  • Deutsche Welle TV  Berlin, Germany weiterlesen blau 2019
  • FM 802 Radio  Osaka, Japan weiterlesen blau 2019
  • FRANCE 2  Paris, France
  • Fuji TV  Tokyo, Japan  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • HSE24 Home Shopping Europe AG  Ismaning, Germany
  • HR Hessischer Rundfunk Frankfurt, Germany
  • J.V.E. facilities   Almere, The Netherlands  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • MDR Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk  Leipzig, Germany weiterlesen blau 2019
  • NDR 2  Hannover, Germany
  • NDR Norddeutscher Rundfunk Hamburg, Hannover, Kiel, Schwerin, Germany
  • Plazamedia TV&Film Produktion  Ismaning, Germany
  • Phoenix TV Station  Bonn, Germany
  • RAI  Rome, Milan, Naples, Torino, Italy  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Radio Bremen  Bremen, Germany  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • RAI Radio  Rome, Italy  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Rom TV  Rome, Italy
  • RTS Radiotelevisione svizzera  Geneva, Switzerland  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • RTBF Brussels, Belgium  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • RTM Kuala Lumpur  Kuala Lumpur, Perdana, Seremban, Malaysia  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • RSI - Radiotelevisione svizzera  Lugano, Switzerland
  • TAI Television News Agency  Warsaw, Poland
  • Television de Galicia  Galicia, Spain
  • TVP Telewizja Polska  Warsaw, Poland  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Tianjin Radio Station  Tianjin, China
  • tpc zürich ag  Zurich, Switzerland  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • TSR Télévision Suisse Romande  Geneva, Switzerland
  • TVE Radio Televisión Espanola  Madrid, Spain
  • WDR Westdeutscher Rundfunk  Cologne, Bocklemund, Dusseldorf,  Germany  weiterlesen blau 2019

CRESCENDO & NEXUS/NEXUS STAR

  • ASTRO  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Anhui TV  Hefei-Anhui, China
  • CCTV  Beijing, China
  • CBC Cologne Broadcasting Center  Cologne, Germany
  • Formosa TV  Taipei, Taiwan  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Fujian tv  Beijing, China
  • Hangzhou TV  Hangzhou, China
  • HR Hessischer Rundfunk  Frankfurt/Main, Kassel, Germany
  • HSE24 Home Shopping Europe AG  Ismaning, Germany
  • HBTV Hubei Broadcasting Group  Wuhan, China
  • HNTV  Zhengzhou, China
  • JiangSu Broadcasting Corporation (JSBC)  Nanjing, China
  • Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) Yeongdeungpo District, Seoul, Korean
  • Life News TV, Moscow, Russia
  • M6 TV  Paris, France
  • Media Prima Berhad  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • NDR  Hamburg, Germany
  • NOSPR Narodowa Orkiestra Symfoniczna Polskiego Radia  Katowice, Poland
  • ONE TV / Dorna Sports Management Rome, Italy
  • Plazamedia TV&Film Produktion  Ismaning, Germany
  • Rede Bahia de Televisao  Salvador, Brazil
  • RTBF  Brussels, Belgium
  • RTM  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • RTS Radiotelevisione svizzera  Geneva, Switzerland
  • SBT Sistema Brasileiro de Televisao Sao Paulo, Brazil  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Shenzhen TV  Shenzhen, China
  • Sveriges Radio  Stockholm, Sweden
  • tpc zürich ag  Zurich, Switzerland
  • TSR Télévision Suisse Romande  Geneva, Switzerland
  • TVE Radio Televisión Espanola  Barcelona, Spain
  • Vatican Radio  Vatican, Italy  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Videohouse  Brussels, Belgium
  • VRT Brussels, Belgium

AURATUS & NEXUS

  • ASTRO TV  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Bernama News TV  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • BR Bayerischer Rundfunk  Nuremberg, Germany
  • CCTV  Beijing, China
  • CJ E&M Brodcasting Centre  Seoul, Korea
  • EPTV  Campinas, Brazil
  • FFS Film- & Fernseh-Synchron  Berlin, Germany  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Henan  Zhengzhou, China
  • HBTV Hubei Broadcasting Group  Wuhan, China
  • Moscovia Broadcasting Company  Moscow, Russia
  • OMTV - Olympic Marseille Football Team  Marseille, France
  • Plazamedia TV&Film Produktion  Ismaning, Germany
  • Radio Kuwait  Kuwait
  • RTBF Brussels, Charleroi, Belgium
  • RTL Radio  Paris, France
  • RTM TV  Sarawak, Malaysia weiterlesen blau 2019
  • RTM TV  Kuala Lumpur, Sarawak, Malaysia
  • SBT Sistema Brasileiro de Televisao  Sao Paulo, Brazil  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Shenzhen TV  Shenzhen, China
  • Tele M1  Aarau, Switzerland
  • Tele 1  Luzern, Switzerland
  • VRT  Brussels, Belgium
  • WDR Westdeutscher Rundfunk Siegen, Bonn, Cologne, Essen, Wuppertal, Aachen, Münster, Bielefeld, Dortmund, Duisburg weiterlesen blau 2019  Germany

ON AIR flex & NEXUS/NEXUS STAR

  • ABC Australian Broadcast Corporation  Sydney, Canberra, Hobart, Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne, all Australia
  • Al-Watan Radio Kuwait  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • ASTRO (Malaysian satellite television)  Cyberjaya, Malaysia
  • CCTV Movie Channel  Beijing, China
  • HR Hessischer Rundfunk  Frankfurt, Germany
  • HSE24 Home Shopping Europe AG  Ismaning, Germany
  • NDR (tv station) Kiel, Hannover, Germany
  • Plazamedia TV&Film Produktion  Ismaning, Germany
  • Radio Pilatus   Lucerne, Switzerland  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • SDTV QILU Channel  Beijing, China
  • Shanghai Education Television  Shanghai, China
  • tpc Zürich  Zurich, Schwitzerland
  • WDR  Duisburg, Dusseldorf, Wuppertal, Germany
  • Xiamen Travel Channel  Xiamen, China

NEXUS/NEXUS STAR

  • All India Radio New Delhi, India  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Antena 3  Madrid, Islas Baleares, Spain
  • BBC  London, United Kingdom
  • BBC North Manchester, United Kingdom  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • BR Bayerischer Rundfunk Freimann, Germany  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Cadena SER  Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Spain  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Canal Mundo Radio  Madrid, Spain
  • Canal+: Paris, France  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • 20th Century Fox  Los Angeles, USA
  • CBS  New York, USA
  • ESPN  Bristol, Los Angeles, USA
  • ETABETA  Rome, Italy
  • Eurosport 2  Paris, France
  • HR Hessischer Rundfunk Gießen, Fulda, Darmstadt, Wiesbaden, Kassel, Germany weiterlesen blau 2019
  • HR Hessischer Rundfunk  TR 3  Frankfurt, Germany  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • IRT Project Hybnet  Munich, Germany
  • NBC  New York, USA
  • NHK  Tokio, Japan
  • n-tv  Berlin, Germany
  • ORB/DVB-FSZ Ostdeutscher Rundfunk  Potsdam, Germany
  • ORF Eisenstadt, Dornbirn, Austria
  • Onda Cero Radio  Madrid, Spain
  • ONE TV / Dorna Sports Management Rome, Italy
  • Polskie Radio S.A.  Warsaw, Poland weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Portuguese Broadcasting Service  Lisbon, Portugal
  • PTT  Madrid, Spain
  • Public Radio of the Ukraine  Kiew, Ukraine
  • Radio Caracol  Bogota, Colombia
  • Radio Cope  Madrid, Spain
  • Radio 9  Valencia, Spain
  • Radio France  Paris, France
  • Radio Traffic  Paris, France
  • Radio Marca  Madrid, Spain
  • RBB FS Berlin, Germany
  • RPP Radio Programas del Peru  Peru
  • RTS Radiotelevisione svizzera  Geneva, Switzerland   weiterlesen blau 2019
  • RTL Berlin, Germany
  • SAT 1  Zurich, Switzerland
  • SFB Sender Freies Berlin  Berlin, Germany
  • Staatlicher Rundfunk Usbekistan  Uzbekistan
  • Studio Hamburg  Hamburg, Germany
  • SWR Südwestrundfunk Stuttgart, Baden-Baden, Germany  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Tele 5  Madrid, Spain
  • Televisión de Galicia  Santiago de Compostela, Spain
  • TF 1  Paris, France  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • TV 1 Napoli  Naples, Italy
  • Unitel  Unterföhring, Germany
  • Vatican Radio Vatican, Italy  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Yunnan TV  Kunming, China
  • ZDF Mainz, Berlin, Germany
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