The “Vienna Volksoper” (“Volksoper Wien”), Vienna’s grand house for operetta, opera, musicals and ballet, is also outfitted with a recording studio and control room that’s now headed by a new Lawo mc²56 mixing console that was commissioned by Lawo technicians using remote-control technology.
Volksoper Wien’s facilities are used to record performances for both television broadcasts and concert recordings, especially of premieres, and also to create audio clips used during performances. As the only multi-purpose venue in Vienna that produces a full complement of opera, operetta, musical and ballet, flexibility is key as more than 150 singers, 95 orchestra musicians and 100 dancers are part of Volksoper Wien’s ensemble.
The IP-based mc²56 mixing console from Lawo was commissioned in January 2020 to replace the first-generation mc²56 installed in 2012. As with everything, the Volksoper was affected by coronavirus this season, with safety measure leading to a standstill of stage operations, with restricted access to the building and audio control room, presenting unique challenges in installation and configuration of the new console. Martin Lukesch, Volksoper project manager and head of Sound and Media Technology, along with Lawo project engineer Daniel Egea, decided to approach the process using remote-control commissioning. In addition to the mxGUI software supplied with the mc²56 console, select online conference media were also employed, intended to facilitate optimal interaction between Vienna and Rastatt.
The remote-control approach has become familiar to Egea. “At the beginning of April, when coronavirus safety measures were still extremely strict and no one, not even the client’s own engineers, were able to carry out installations or factory acceptance tests on-site or at our premises, Lawo developed an infrastructure that enabled remote FATs,” he notes. “With continuing safety protocols around the world, we have worked to make remote commissioning and its corresponding workflow a standard part of our process. It’s now almost routine for us to supervise a project remotely.”
Lukesch adds, “Like nearly everyone else, corona disrupted our plans,” . “If someone had told us at the beginning of the year that we would commission the new mc²56 console by remote support, I would have just shaken my head in disbelief. But it worked out beautifully. After the new console was delivered in May, the mechanical installation was carried out by the Volksoper crew using appropriate health-safety protocols. Then, using the online setup, Mr. Egea was able to read out all data remotely and create new Compact Flash cards for the console, and remaining adjustments were then made again by remote maintenance. All data and production content were transferred, and everything worked without any problems.”
The new 32-fader mc²56 hass 96 DSP channels and offers a routing capacity of 8,192 x 8,192 crosspoints. It supports SMPTE 2110, AES67/RAVENNA and DANTE, all optimized for IP video production environments. Button-glow, color backlit touch-sense encoders and color TFTs provide color coding of channel strips, designed to facilitate better visibility and faster access, and Lawo’s LiveView technology provides thumbnail displays of video streams on the fader channel displays. The mc²56 offers features tailored specifically for theater and live performances, such Selective Recall, Oversnaps (relative trim sets), comprehensive theater automation via Cue List with various triggers (MIDI, GPIO, LTC), integration of Waves SoundGrid and Neumann DMI-8 digital microphones, and mirror console operation.
During a normal September-to-June performance season, the program of Volksoper Wien’s 1,337-seat repertory theater includes dozens of different productions with almost 300 performances. This year, the last performance took place on March 10, but rehearsals re-started in June. On weekends, the Volksoper is currently presenting concerts for a maximum of 100 listeners in the auditorium, with regular performance operations scheduled to re-start on September 1.
In conclusion, Lukesch says, “Everyone – the ensemble, the musicians, the technicians, and our colleagues from the various trades – is glad that there is once again the possibility to have a largely normal season. Even though we are already familiar with our new console through training and experience with the previous Lawo console, we will gradually be able to fully explore the possibilities of our new mc²56 in day-to-day operation — and I am very much looking forward to that.”