The Washington Opera has taken up temporary residence in the historic DAR Constitution Hall, while its regular home at the Kennedy Center undergoes renovation. This season and next, the opera will play to full houses of 2,900 opera fans in the venue, where a substantial new infrastructure has been installed, including a rare application for LED technology — the use of Lighthouse LED supertitle panels from rental company Large Screen Video (LSV), San Francisco, to permit audience members to read translated text.

A key staging challenge was posed by the lack of production space: almost no room was available backstage, and the stage area itself measured just 30'×80'; too small for most, major opera productions. There was also an absence of an orchestra pit. With no room backstage to maneuver scenery or props, the opera's technical team had to create space.

“We designed a thrust stage, which increased the area to approximately 80'×80',” explains Noel Uzemack, the opera's technical director.

The second step was to replace conventional scenery with projection — in this case, six 7kW PIGI projectors with rotating double scrollers. The PIGIs are housed in a glass-fronted room to minimize noise spill.

The lighting rig includes 30 Vari-Lite VL1000 luminaires, chosen in part for their quiet operation. “Because of the amount of equipment in and around the grid, including a whole system of acoustic panels, we needed to minimize the number of times technicians would need to access the catwalk system to focus lights,” says Uzemack. “So we went for the moving lights, which could be remotely focused.”

Bringing in the opera's own video projectors to display supertitles, as is done at the Kennedy Center, would have added to the acoustic hassles. Instead, the team at Sound Associates, a system integrator, suggested asking John Rigney, president and founder of LSV, for an LED solution.

Rigney's team sent in a pair of Lighthouse LVP2020 LED screens, each measuring 3.5'×17'.

“Once I found the off-axis viewing angle was 140 degrees, we discovered that by angling two panels on either side of the house, the screens could be seen from every seat in the house and the image quality is excellent,” adds Uzemack.

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