Meyer Sound assisted with the production of the San Francisco Opera’s opening-night simulcast of Madama Butterfly for an an estimated 8,000 people in San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza, which is across the street from the War Memorial Opera House. Pro Media/Ultra Sound (PM/US) provided sound for the event.
More than two dozen crew members worked on the simulcast, with the opera’s master audio engineer, Max Christensen, and the opera’s audio department key, Doug Mitchell, anchoring the audio operation at the opera house. The opera itself was picked up by only three microphones: John Meyer’s modified Neumann USM 69 stereo condenser, which was suspended over the stage, while two DPA 4023 compact cardioid condensers were deployed as “foot” mics. Meyer’s USM 69 was modified to provide two bi-directional (figure-8) patterns, as opposed to the traditional MS stereo combination of one cardioid and one bidirectional pattern. The mic fed a custom MS decoding matrix designed and built by Meyer.
At Civic Center Plaza, PM/US project manager David Bowers presided over a system built around two arrays of eight MILO high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers each, hung from giant cranes on either side of the LED screen. “The goal we had was to get sound all the way to the east side of the plaza, adjacent to Fulton Street, which is more than 600 feet away,” Bowers says. “The opera had expected three to five thousand people to attend and they got considerably more than that, so we had our hands full making sure it could be heard everywhere.”
The arrays were hung from giant cranes on booms to get them as close as possible to the screen, in order to maximize the feeling that the sound was coming from the onscreen action and not from a sound system.
Four 700-HP ultrahigh-power subwoofers were groundstacked on either side of the stage to provide low-end support for the orchestra, with each stack topped by a pair of legacy, unpowered MSL-2A reinforcement loudspeakers for sidefill.