As the city’s main stage for operetta, opera, musicals and ballet, Vienna’s Volksoper is renowned throughout the world for the quality and diversity of its performances. It is also an incredibly busy theatre with some 300 performances of around 35 different productions staged every year between September and June.
Delivering such a high volume of performances requires a great deal of effort from everyone involved, especially the sound department.
“To cope with such an intense workload, our sound equipment has to be flexible, durable and very hard working,” says Martin Lukesch, Head of Sound and Multimedia at Volksoper Vienna. “This is why we use DPA microphones. For many years they have played an important part in providing the amplification for the orchestra, for actors in musicals and for actors and singers in every kind of show. Opera and operettas, of course, require no amplification – that’s all down to the power of the human voice.”
Lukesch adds that DPA microphones were initially chosen because they are extremely high quality, reliable microphones that are capable of delivering excellent sound.
“They also work beautifully with our Sennheiser D9000 multichannel digital wireless systems,” he says. “In total, we have more than 200 DPA microphones, including d:screet™ 4061 Omnidirectional Miniature Microphones and d:fine™ 4066 Headset Microphones, d:facto™ Vocal Microphones and d:vote™ 4099 Instrument Microphones, which we particularly like because they clip easily onto any instrument and make no compromises when it comes to sound quality.”
Volkoper’s DPA microphones are currently being used for a production of Man of La Mancha, which opened on October 17th 2015. This famous musical is based on a book by Dale Wasserman, with lyrics by Joe Darion and music by Mitch Leigh. Inspired by Miguel de Cevantes seventeenth-century masterpiece Don Quixote, the musical tells the story of the ‘mad’ knight, Don Quixote. It is a play within a play, performed by Cervantes and his fellow prisoners as he awaits a hearing with the Spanish Inquisition.
Volksoper’s version stars actor and Volksoper director Robert Meyer, who plays Cervantes/Don Quixote. The staging for this production is unusual because the actors are located in the raised orchestra pit, while the orchestra is positioned behind them on a part of the stage that moves up and down, allowing the musicians to become more and more visible as the show progresses.
“Over the last 50 years, since this musical was first performed, audience expectation has changed dramatically,” Martin Lukesch explains. “These days everyone expects the audio to sound like a recording, which means that every instrument and every actor must be miked. That involves a lot of work for the sound department because everything has to be carefully put in place for each rehearsal and each show. Without a flexible and hard-working microphone system like DPA, this would be very difficult to achieve.”
Lukesch adds that for this particular performance, where the orchestra was located behind the stage, all of the instruments needed to be amplified because it wasn’t possible for the audience to clearly hear the unamplified sound. DPA d:vote™ 4099 Instrument Microphones proved to be the ideal solution because they provided excellent sound quality and were also very quick and easy for the musicians to use.
“The musicians are used to work with d:vote™ 4099s, so they know how to fit them to their instruments using the special clips provided by DPA,” he says. “Even though this was a show with amplification, it really didn’t sound like it because the audio delivered by the microphones was so natural and clear that if felt as thought the orchestra was right in front of you. It was our intention for the audience to feel as though they were hearing a recording rather than the amplified sound. In order to do this we needed a really high quality audio chain, which started with the DPA microphones and incorporated our wireless system, mixing desk, amps and speakers.”
Lukesch adds that because the orchestra was behind the stage, the sound crew also had to provide monitoring so that the musicians could hear the voices of the actors on the stage.
“Our monitoring system allowed us to deliver different mixes to the conductor and the various musicians playing double bass, guitars, drums, woodwinds and brass. For these mixes, quality was important so we needed microphones that could deliver great sound. All the actors were fitted with d:screet™ 4061 microphones and d:fine™ Headset Microphones, so quality wasn’t an issue and their voices transferred perfectly to the musicians behind the stage.”
DPA’s d:screet™ 4061 and d:fine™ Headset Microphones are often used to amplify actors taking part in Volksoper performances.
“Sometimes we hide our DPA microphones in the actors’ hair and costumes, but usually we try and get as close to the mouth as possible to ensure the best possible sound quality,” Lukesch says. “Actors in musicals are all professionals and are therefore used to wearing microphones. Usually, after a few minutes on stage, they forget about the mics and the transmitters. However, to avoid problems during the show, the sound, make up and costume departments work closely together so that we can find solutions that are comfortable for the actors but also protect the microphones from any damage.”
Other recent performances by Volksoper have included My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, The Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz. And in every case DPA microphones played a key role in the audiences’ enjoyment.
At DPA Microphones we’re passionate about acoustic truth. That’s why every DPA microphone combines ingenious audio engineering with brilliant design and is crafted with more than 200 hands-on procedures at our own facilities in Denmark: to get as close as humanly possible to honest sound.
For more information, please visit www.dpamicrophones.com