The Vienna Volksoper, or People’s Opera, is Europe’s leading operetta house and Vienna’s largest theatre for opera, musicals, classical concerts and ballet. Indeed, Vienna Volksoper offers one of the most diverse musical programs in the country, ranging from Carmen to Kiss Me Kate, and Coppelia to Cabaret, as well as productions for schools, lots of local German operetta performances and much more besides.
The venue is also the first in Vienna to open its doors to the public after the summer break, but more importantly in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, with a performance of Strauss’s Die Fledermaus on 1st September followed by a revival of Cole Porter’s classic musical, Kiss Me Kate on 2nd September. Both will be benefitting from the pristine audio reproduction of a brand new, carefully designed KV2 audio system, which also happens to be the first ever to use KV2’s new Control & Diagnostics Tool for remote system management and control.
The new sound system for the 1339-capacity venue was designed by Martin Lukesch, director of sound and media technology at Vienna Volksoper. “Here, it’s all about the music!” explained Martin.
“As a repertory theatre with a hugely varied performance range – we can be staging a rock musical one night and a classical ballet the next – the demands on the sound system are enormous. Our season starts on 1st September and we have rehearsals every morning and performances every evening, non-stop, until 30th June. This was my starting point when it came to designing a new system. It had to be able to fulfil the needs of all the different types of show we stage and deliver the best possible audio experience for our audiences.”
Martin had been a fan of point source technology even before coming across KV2, convinced that it was the solution for Volksoper, but he took a while to find what he was looking for. However, once he’d found KV2 – he particularly recalls the first time that he heard the VHD system demo’d at an outdoor stage at the Frankfurt Musik Messe – there was no going back. “I need point source loudspeakers for my designs, and KV2 makes excellent point source loudspeakers. Better still, they have a huge variety of sizes and formats. Whatever it is you need, KV2 has the right speaker for the job. So yes, when we decided to renew the sound system at Volksoper, for me it was an easy choice!”
For the main system Martin selected three active, full-range ESR215S per side for the stalls, circle and upper circle. “I wanted a real full-range system with the -3dB point below 40 Hz,” he says. “The ESR215 is ideal with its wide 110-degree horizontal dispersion and smooth frequency response across the range. We chose the S slimline version to minimise visual impact. The centre cluster comprises two SL412 active, wide dispersion loudspeakers flanked by an ESD10 and an ESD12 per side. Frequency and phase response are matched to the side system.
“There is also a second proscenium system of 12 smaller, wide dispersion boxes (ESD10s), mainly for sound effects. We have another effects system, known as ‘The voice of God’ located in the dome of the auditorium, which is two of the big ESR212s plus a full surround system throughout the theatre – there are at least 60 speakers, mainly ESD5s which are used for ‘room simulation’ to create ambience, or for special sound effects that require high diffusion. Finally, we have six more big point sources – ESR212s again – for the stage; if you need thunder or explosions on or behind the stage, then you need powerful speakers on or behind the stage. The ESR212s are perfect, just as they are for the voice of God! There are also delays, frontfills, outfills and other speakers for effects or monitoring throughout the auditorium.
“The vast majority of our equipment is permanently installed,” he continued. “We effectively have several systems in one, and it’s much easier and faster for us to switch between shows when 90% of what you need is already in place. However, there are times when you still need to supplement with mobile systems, so we also have a large stock of additional point sources that we can use as required; we have ESDs in every size, from the tiny ESD Cube up to the ESD15, plus a number of ESM stage monitors.”
When it comes to subwoofers, Martin hasn’t stinted either. “You can never have enough subs!” he declared. “There will always be a show where you need more low end – sometimes you have to feel the bass and the seats need to shake! If your subwoofers are placed correctly, you can achieve that quite easily.”
Volksoper Vienna offers the ideal placement for subwoofers that can literally move the earth. Like many old buildings, heating and cooling is achieved via a double floor system; in the case of Volksoper, this means there is an entire room under the auditorium which is the perfect place to house earth-moving subs. Martin has opted for four of KV2s most powerful and dynamic subwoofer solution, the VHD4.21 active/passive system, for under the stalls, plus eight single 18-inch woofers under the balconies and two flown VHD2.18J dual 18-inch systems in the dome for the boxes.
“With these solutions, we can really make audiences feel completely involved the performance, especially as we have wooden floors that react to the vibrations. If we wanted to make people believe they were experiencing an earthquake, we could. In fact, with the amount of power we’ve got, we could probably even create one!”
When it comes to amplifiers, Volksoper Vienna is the first installation to utilise KV2’s brand new diagnostic, monitoring and control tool, which adds an essential level of comfort and security when managing a large, complex system. “In 2020, large installations like ours – we have 56 amplifiers in use full-time and five spare – have to be accurately controlled and monitored, or we simply can’t operate efficiently,” said Martin.
“Our previous system used network-controlled amplifiers, which was perfectly reliable, but old technology. KV2’s solution is most definitely next generation and offers us much more flexibility. All amplifiers, drivers and speakers are monitored in real time, so any anomalies are instantly located and reported. It also enables me to configure and switch between systems in no time. For example, for one show I’ll be using small speakers, and for the next I’ll have a completely different system with all of the subs involved. This enables me to load all of the amp settings for a particular show in just one click – it’s virtually plug and play which makes my life much easier!
“I’m delighted with the new KV2 system at every level. Our audiences deserve the best, and as far as I’m concerned, this is it.”