HSL Moves The Mountain Move at Masada

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Blackburn UK based lighting rental company HSL supplied all stage lighting equipment for the Israeli Opera & Les Choragies d'Orange in France's production of "Aida", staged in a purpose built amphitheatre at the foot of Masada Mountain at The Dead Sea in Israel.

It was the second year running that HSL has been involved in the event, working for The Design Group, Israeli based technical production suppliers, who co-ordinated all production elements. The Design Group also built the massive venue in the middle of the desert for the 2010 launch of the brand new Dead Sea & Jerusalem Opera Festival, which featured Verdi's "Nabucco".

Four containers of lighting kit were dispatched by sea freight from the UK and one by road for the production, which featured a creative stage and Mountain lighting design by Avi Yono Bueno (Bambi). HSL's crew chief on site was Ian Stevens and the project manager was Mike Oates.

Says Oates, "This event takes site specific work to new heights of innovation and ambition. It was a real privilege to be onboard again and work with Eyal Lavee and his team at The Design Group".

Lavee, the show's technical director said, "Working with HSL last year was such a great experience that we wanted to keep the same team this year. It was important on a high profile job like this to utilise the very best companies in the industry, and in HSL we have found a great partner".

The show incorporated nearly 200 moving lights. The majority were Robes, and HSL also purchased 52 new Martin Professional MAC 3K profiles with framing shutter modules specially for the show to fulfil Bambi's specific requests. There were nearly 300 ETC Source Four profiles with 10,19 and 50 degree lenses and over 300 other conventionals including ACL bars, individual PARs and Iris 1 floods.

Challenges included the usual environmental issues of working in a desert, with the sweltering heat, ubiquitous dust and frequent high winds. However, being the second time around, many things were easier. "We became acclimatised a lot quicker, the site was more familiar, and it was a question of knowing what to expect and therefore being better prepared and having the knowledge from last year's experience," explains Stevens.

He worked alongside HSL crew members Charlotte Stevens and Rob Starksfield, both also veterans of Masada 2010, and they were joined by local lighting crew chief, Tzafrir Dagan (Saffi) from Betty Bam, plus Itay Hafner and Ido Derei. Dagan visited HSL for 5 days in April to assist with the prep and loading of the containers.

Moving The Mountain in Lights

Masada Mountain played a huge scenic role in the show as a dramatic and breathtakingly beautiful natural backdrop to Emmanuel Favre's majestic Egyptian set. This year, the Mountain - also a World Heritage site - was illuminated with a series of fixtures spread out for about a kilometre along its base, including 18 of HSL's new MAC 3 Profiles and 54 bars of 4 x 600 Watt ACLs. There were also 60 Panther 5K xenon searchlights from Stage Design, all of which were controlled via 12 truss mounting DMX buffers and 5 x Avolites 24-way ART 5K dimmers supplied by HSL.

The mountain appeared out of nowhere when lit, a spectacular effect accentuating it's imposing craggy face and distinctive shape, sometimes in stark white, at times streaked with colour or rippling with delicate movement from the Mac 3 animation wheels. When it was unlit, it disappeared completely into the pitch black.

Data was sent over 5 systems of City Theatrical wireless DMX (4 and a spare) with power supplied by 11 x 125 KVA generators.

All the equipment was deployed by farm tractor/trailer and forklift, and during the performance period it was minded by Ido Derei, working with 2 technicians from Panther.

Lighting the Stage

Two large gantries were erected each side of the 65 metre wide stage to facilitate lighting positions, with another at front-of-house behind the uppermost level of the bleacher seating.

The remaining 36 x MAC 3s were stationed on these together with 94 x Robe ColorSpot 2500E ATs, 78 of which were on the side gantries and 16 on the front. These were utilised for all the basic stage washing and illumination of the cast.

Twenty Robe ROBIN 600 LEDWash fixtures highlighted for set stage right and left, including four scenic sphinxes and a 12 metre high Pharaoh's head upstage centre.

Further set lighting was provided by 12 Robe REDWash 3●192s on the stairs behind the Pharaoh's head, and below a large trap that opened in the stage during the tomb scene towards the end of the performance.

The Robes all stood up well to the tough operating environment again. The 2500s were fitted with custom reflectors which boosted the output by about 30 per cent - a special request from Bambi. Some also had custom rectangular and square gobos to enable precise focussing on specific areas of the stage. Bespoke dot gobos in 24 of the Robes were used in the final scene, allowing the stage lighting to be matched to a special LED 'Galaxy Effect' that was happening on the Mountain.

The Source Fours were dotted all around the gantries, on the floor, on special stands and under the stage and used for general stage and key lighting. Behind the back of the stage, 16 bars of 250 Watt ACLs provided set candy.

The only PAR cans on the job didn't light the stage but the audience - with 8 x 6-way bars on the FOH truss and 52 short nose individual cans along the front edge of the stage pointing outwards, augmented with 4 sets of 4-way Moles.

About 200 metres back from the stage in the outfield, four single PAR cans were positioned 200 metres apart to pick up a camel caravan walk-through during the second half.

The runway leading up to the base of the Pharaoh's head was lit with 76 x 1K individual cyc units recessed in the ramp walls, strafing the floor.

To enhance nature's atmospherics, HSL supplied 16 x K1 smoke machines and F1 fans, four were top mounted on the stage right and left trusses, and the rest dotted around the deck.

Four Robert Juliat Cirano follow spots on truss chairs at FOH saved losing several seats, and two RJ Lancelots were on platforms flanking the FOH lighting control position.

Four 'Dimmer City' locations were established - stage right and left, under the stage and FOH, and dimming hardware (for the stage) comprised 8 x 48-way Avo ART2000 2K racks, 6 x 72-way Socapex distros, 4 x Type 14 400A switches and 6 data racks to manage the DMX of which there were 20 universes.

Verdi's "Aida" at Masada was another huge success for the Israeli Opera. It was directed by Charles Roubaud, conducted by Daniel Oren and enjoyed by 60,000 people over 8 nights, once again to great critical acclaim. The site also hosted two other shows as part of the entertainment programme- a Verona Concert and a performance by Andrea Bocelli.

It is one of a number of theatrical productions in which HSL is involved this summer which also includes The Holland Park Opera Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, plus numerous ongoing high profile touring musicals.

For more press info on the HSL Group, please contact Louise Stickland on +44 (0)1865 202679/+44 (0)7831 329888 or Email louise@loosplat.com. Contact HSL direct on +44 (0)1254 698808, ‘info@hslgroup.com' or check www.hslgroup.com.

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