d&b Soundscape returns to Ravenna with BH Audio.
The town of Ravenna, famed for its annual music festival which attracts music lovers from across the world, played host to a celebration of opera with the Autumn Trilogy 2019. Staged at the Teatro Comunale Alighieri, the Trilogy featured three classic operas – Bellini’s Norma, Verdi’s Aida and Bizet’s Carmen. And once again, the d&b Soundscape played a major supporting role in the hands of classical music specialist and Live Sound Engineer, Massimo Carli of BH Audio.
Carli and BH Audio have long been a supplier of sound reinforcement services to the Ravenna festival, and as a long-standing d&b audiotechnik partner, has fielded many d&b systems over the years. In his constant search for improved live sound solutions for this highly sensitive and uniquely demanding music genre, Carli has in recent times experimented with the power of the d&b Soundscape to deliver improved, apparently “unamplified” experiences for audiences and musicians alike.
Of course, for opera performance, one of the key challenges is the clarity of the all-important vocals. “My aim for this edition of the Trilogy was to use the d&b Soundscape to create a virtual acoustic chamber,” says Carli. “This would allow us to project the voices, expand the environment and give depth to the sound so that it appears to come from a real wooden acoustic chamber, but without needing a structure so cumbersome on stage, and without the need for a real amplification. At the same time, the optimal sound comfort achieved on stage benefits the singers and choir, helping them to get the most out of their performance.”
Carli had previously used d&b Soundscape to create a virtual acoustic shell for orchestral performances during the Festival’s summer season, inside the town’s Pala de Andrè sports arena. His success here led him to break new ground once again for the November season’s operatic performances, creating a virtual acoustic shell for an opera performance inside an opera house.
To achieve this balance of supporting the voices of the singers, without really amplifying the performance, Carli used the d&b En-Space software’s library of reverb signatures to introduce an emulation of Vienna’s Mozart Hall. This helped him to create a more immersive sound for the audience and the singers, subtly enhancing the experience without mic’ing and amplifying the performers themselves.
“A big difference from the Pala de André setup is in the type of mic’ing,” says BH Audio’s Assistant Sound Engineer, Giulia Nicosia. “At the Pala de André, we mic’ed the single instruments, or instrument groups, while here the mic’ing is just environmental. We have also hidden a few other mics in the scenery for particular moments of the operas, for effect-like situations.”
Having played a key role in the testing and development of the d&b Soundscape since its very earliest stages in 2013, BH Audio’s familiarity with the system - and its possibilities for the highly sensitive classical music environment - is second to none. Their skillful and respectful implementation of the system has been welcomed by Ravenna Festival’s renowned Maestro Riccardo Muti and the Festival’s president and artistic director, Mrs. Cristina Mazzavillani Muti.
“In terms of flexibility, and the possibility for quick reaction to the requests and wishes of directors as far as effects are concerned, Soundscape is a reliable source,” says Nicosia. “The response has been positive, with both singers and actors realising a difference. Mrs Muti can directly ask for changes, so she is able to shape the sound of the shows more easily.”
In fact, when the old questions about technology’s place in classical music applications was raised at a press conference, both Mrs Muti and d&b’s Ralph Zuleeg were in full agreement – that the composers of the past, perfectionists and innovators themselves, would have been delighted by the Soundscape implementation in Ravenna. In the words of Gustav Mahler, “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”
A final word comes from BH Audio’s Soundscape maestro, Massimo Carli: “Once you try Soundscape, there is no way back. The natural sound it is capable of producing has no peer. The results are impossible to recreate with any other means. It’s also much easier to use in live situations, as once it’s set, it requires much less adjustments than other systems; once you find the right mix it gives back all the natural dynamics of classical music. If you add that you can also recreate the acoustic of different environments, it’s a must for this kind of job.”