DPA delivers true freedom of movement for opera stars

Raymond Gubbay’s Classical Spectacular at the Royal Albert Hall used d:fine omnidirectional headset microphones to amplify the sound of the show’s stars for the first time last month.

The performance, which runs twice a year in March and November, combined the classical operatic talents of singers Stephanie Corley and Jesús León with the musicians of the Royal Philharmonic orchestra, along with a lightshow, lasers and pyrotechnics. Classical audio specialist RG Jones Sound Engineering, which celebrates its 90th birthday in 2016, provided the audio crew, PA, monitors, control and microphone package.

For FOH engineer Phil Wright, the latest Classical Spectacular was his first time working on the show.

"I was delighted to be asked by RG Jones to join the Classical Spectacular family," Wright said. "The show is one of the most respected of its genre and there is certainly no room for error – audience and artist expectations are very high."

According to Wright, the decision to move to d:fine headset microphones meant that the singers had much more freedom of movement and could better express their characters. In previous performances they were positioned in front of microphones on stands, which naturally limited their movement around the stage.

"I wanted to go over to radio mics, but without a proscenium arch I knew I’d have trouble with omnis in their hairlines," continued Wright.

The solution was to use the d:fine mics mounted on a short boom, set back from the singer’s mouth, but close enough to give the required separation.

A much-loved heritage venue, the Royal Albert Hall can nonetheless present its own acoustic challenges. "The main issue is mixing at concert levels while maintaining a natural, transparent sound," Wright added. "It’s not a film score sound, more of a Deutsche Grammophon CD sound – absolutely natural reinforcement, but at concert levels."

To achieve the sound he wanted from the musicians, Wright specified DPA d:dicate 2011C cardioid microphones and d:vote instrument microphones. As an engineer who regularly works on large productions, Wright said he invariably turns to DPA because the company’s microphones make his job much easier.

"Many of the productions I work on have more than 150 microphones on stage, and each one can add distortion and other unwanted artefacts into my mix. Multiple, great inputs are much easier to wrangle into a great mix," he concluded.

Billed as the ultimate in classical music shows, Classical Spectacular has been running for over 25 years and has now shown in 11 different countries.