The historic Erkel Theatre, one of the largest and oldest in Budapest has lifted the curtain on Sir Elton John’s musical ‘Billy Elliott’, complete with a NEXO STM Series modular line array system which was specified and installed in time for this prestigious production. It is one of the first fixed installations of STM M28 in a theatre.
With over 1800 seats, the Erkel Theatre is Hungary’s largest theatrical auditorium. Named for Ferenc Erkel, composer of the country’s national anthem, the building was inaugurated in 1911, and has been through much redevelopment over the decades: most recently, it was closed for six years until 2013, when it reopened after extensive renovation.
Today it is the second venue of the Hungarian State Opera, and as the main Opera House prepares to close for its own renovation, the Erkel is expanding its programme to include musicals, folk, pop music and jazz concerts, as well as prominent contemporary composers such as Michael Nyman and Hans Zimmer. Accordingly, the Erkel has invested in an impressive NEXO modular line array system, integrated with Yamaha digital mixing and control, with full Dante network functionality, designed and supplied by Lisys-Project Kft.
The process of upgrading the Erkel Theatre’s audio systems has evolved over three phases since 2013, adapting the capabilities of the technology to the theatre’s programming at the time.
The first phase of modern sound reinforcement saw the installation of NEXO PS15 point-source loudspeakers with RS15 subbass as the main PA system. A monitor system of PS10s was installed on stage, with additional PS Series cabinets for mobile use, and the entire system was powered by NXAMP processor/amplifiers, running in analogue input-signal mode.
Lisys-Project engineer Ferenc Molnár supervised the design and installation. “This PS system served the basic functions perfectly at a time when the theatre only hosted opera and spoken word performances. The technical level of the system was tailored to this programming, and delivered excellent coverage and high SPL, even in this large space.”
A year later, Erkel expanded its PS Series system to handle the small-scale pop and jazz concerts now coming into the theatre. PS10 and PS15 cabinets were added to cover the front rows, and to act as side-delays for the large balcony.
The theatre was becoming more and more popular with pop fans, and at the end of 2015, it decided to present a Hungarian production of ‘Billy Elliot’ as its first large-scale musical theatre performance. Such a presentation called for a modern high-specification line array system, and the choice was NEXO’s modular STM Series. The decision was based on the choices of the Erkel’s technical department, and the excellent working relationship with NEXO products and Lisys, NEXO’s distributor in Hungary – “nobody had heard the system when they made the decision, we did the demo afterwards!” recalls Molnár.
The Erkel thus becomes one of the first theatres in the world to install a NEXO STM line array using M28 omni-purpose modules, 9 cabinets per side. Two S118 subs are positioned either side of the stage, and 8x ID24 super-compacts are mounted across the front edge of the stage, to provide nearfield for the first rows. Additionally there is a L/R stacked system, using 1x M28, 1x B112 bass module and 1x S118 sub.
“Although it is large, the auditorium is a very simple space,” explains Erkel sound engineer Jáhos Matuz. “We used NEXO’s NS-1 simulation software and SMAART v.8 to create the design, calculating the distances for direct sound. When we did set-up and fine-tuning, we did the measurements of reflected sound from the half-barrel ceiling and set the parameters on the system controller as necessary. The M28 arrays are throwing 42 metres to the furthest seats in the balcony, delivering around 98-100dBA in the stalls for ‘Billy Elliott’.”
A distinctive feature of the installation is that the STM arrays can be easily dismantled. When the Erkel is presenting opera and the line arrays are not in use, they are taken down to improve sightlines and scenery positions. “It is a big bonus that the STM M28 hangs are very easy to install.” In opera mode, Matoz still has the option to use the other NEXO elements which remain in situ.
The monitoring system on stage and in the orchestra pit uses the Erkel’s inventory of NEXO PS Series. These bring the total number of NEXO cabinets in the theatre to more than 80, amplified by 16x NXAMP4x4s and NXAMP4x1s fitted with Dante cards to provide full network functionality.
Sound engineer Jáhos Matuz mixes on a digital Yamaha system: there are two consoles in the control room, CL5 and CL3, and five R-Series digital stageboxes (Rio3224-D and Rio1608-D i/o units) in the orchestra, amp-racks, wireless rack and at the mixers.
“In this system, everything including the amplifiers can be seen through the console,” explains Matuz. “All the information is right in front of you, under fingertip control. We have through-the-system compatibility from CL3 to STM; such reliability is worth the price, and the sound quality is great, among the best in its category. In my opinion, the CL Series are the most stable mixers available today.”
For ‘Billy Elliott’, the Erkel is running 100 channels of audio through its Yamaha mixer, more than 26 of which are radio mic channels on a Sennheiser G3 Series system. Theatre sound engineer Matuz is delighted to be driving one of the most highly specified installed systems in Hungary. “The natural sound of the STM is very musical without any manipulation, although a few tweaks set it very easily to personal taste. The mid-range has a lot of headroom and depth, and the top end is clean. In this production, the child’s voice can be heard very clearly, even with a large orchestral sound behind it.”
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