Ideogamma, an Italian projection firm specializing in theatrical and more specifically operatic productions, has just come off a run of La Dolores at Madrid's Teatro Real.

The Teatro Real dates back to 1497, but the current venue was inaugurated in 1850 by Isabel II where, among other events, it hosted Verdi, conducting the Madrid debut of La Forza del Destino. Over the last decade or so, the theatre has undergone a total renovation and a series of technical upgrades. It is now one of Europe's most complete theatres, reputedly the best stage in southern Europe, with CCTV, sound reinforcement and recording facilities, a stage with a total of 22 platforms and panels moved by systems installed by U.T.E. Waagner-Biro-Thyssen Boetticher, and numerous acoustically treated rehearsal rooms.

Regarding the project, ambitious even by his firm's standards, Ideogamma owner Sergio Metalli explained, “We projected the scenery onto five motorized screens on stage and a huge scrim that covered the stage front for the entire show.”

Metalli had been considering the multiple mobile screen idea for some time and discussed it with the opera's director, Jose Carlos Plaza, with whom he'd already worked in Italy and Spain. They then spoke to set designer Francisco Leal, and it was decided the project was feasible.

The images for the opera (by Spanish composer Tomás Bretón and set in 19th century Aragon) were photos by Plaza and abstract paintings by Enrique Marty. This combination, with linking images created via computer, resulted in atmospheres ranging from real life to ethereal, dramatically transforming the set in just a few seconds.

The images were sent from the servers via a fiber network to two control setups: one below the stage, the other in the theatre's control room opposite the stage. There, alongside the subtitle projection set up, a Christie Roadie S12 (3 DLP, 12,000 ansi lumens) projected onto the scrim. “On stage, the four raked side screens all had different shapes and varied in size from 66 down to 35 sq.m. and in height from almost 9 down to just over 3m,” explains Real AV director Ricardo Cuenca.

The center screen was a 6.5-m square unit and all five projectors (Eiki XT3 10,000 ansi lumens) were mounted vertically on the motorized carriages supporting the screens in Notturno, a blue-grey PVC rear projection fabric by Italian manufacturer Peroni. Projections on the front main scrim measured 18×9.5m. Ideogamma head technician Giorgio Boccuzzi worked downstairs with two Real technicians preparing the video material on ten computers, two for each screen. “Playout” was via an Extron console, upstream of five Folsom Screen Pro video mixers, with a system designed by Ideogamma keeping the set up in perfect sync.

A stage technician took care of the screen/projector carriages: the four side carriages rotated, but the center screen moved up and down stage, so a close watch had to be kept on cables, among other things.

The IT technology for such an ambitious project had some impressive figures, as Metalli explained, “As well as two bi-processor Xeon servers with fiber channel, we had an AMD 64-bit graphics storage server with a backup capacity of 3.2 terabytes!”

Enthusing on the results achieved, and about to leave for a project for liberation celebrations in Algeria, self-effacing Metalli concluded, “I'd wanted to do something like this for some time, but it could only have been staged to full effect in a large modern theatre with a top-grade technical team, so Teatro Real was the perfect choice!”

Mike Clark is an Italy-based UK journalist specializing in entertainment technology and can be contacted at mclark@rimini.com