Gian Luigi Maria Morgia ("Pepi" to the industry) was definitely one of Italy's hardest-working LDs during the 1999 festive season right through to the celebrations for the 2000 Jubilee. The Genoan, who lives in Rome when not between airports, said his schedule got off to a fast start with the lighting for the traditional Vatican Christmas concert.

"The event was transmitted by Mediaset from Nervi Hall, and included artists such as Tom Jones, Miriam Makeba, Jennifer Paige, and Sasha, as well as top Italian names and the band of the Pope's Swiss Guards, its first official outing at such an event," Morgia says. "I then designed the relatively small but symbolically important setup used to light the Vatican Holy Door, which is opened by the Pope on Christmas Eve; here we used some PARs and Molefays."

The next event on Morgia's calendar was the celebration for the arrival of the new year at the Vatican, with a concert held in St. Peter's Square that starred Rome-based singer/songwriter Claudio Baglioni and a gospel group, and was beamed out via Mondovision along with the Pope's new year wishes. It was the first full-scale concert of its kind that the Vatican permitted to be held in the square.

A new lighting system was recently installed at the Vatican by ACEA to illuminate the facade and cupola of St. Peter's; Morgia was responsible for designing the illumination on and around the stage, as well as handling hardware used to light the huge crowd that packed the square. "We used normal concert gear, supplied by Marches-based firm Global Service System of Tavullia, as was the rest of the light rig for the event," Morgia says. "The rig for the concert included 30 Clay Paky Golden Scan HPEs, twenty 5ks with color changers, and 120 PAR-64s. We used Strand 5kW fresnels with color changers to uplight the colonnade. On top of the colonnade we had eight CP60 jumbos [cinematographic units], 48 PAR-64s, and 8-light 5kW Molefays illuminating the crowd, with four Strong Super Troupers round the top of the colonnade. This part of the rig has almost become a permanent fixture recently--the other day it was used for the Jubilee of the Sick, and we were back again lighting the crowd in the square."

Morgia was in also in charge of coordinating the event and lighting design for the 2000 celebrations in Florence, where the lighting contractor was Rome-based firm Limelite. "On top of the 150'-high (46m) St. Nicholas Tower, one of the gateways to 13th-century Florence, I had 12 ACL jumbos, 8 Sky-Tracker A1s, 12 HMI 6kW fresnels, and eight 1,200W Arrisun PARs installed. These were used to light the trees and the river, from the Ponte Vecchio bridge [probably the city's best-known monument] to the next bridge across the Arno River, Ponte Alle Grazie, and across to the other side of the Arno, where the Zecca Vecchia [Old Mint] Tower was lit--it even extended to the dome of the Santa Croce Basilica. St. Nicholas Tower was also uplit with eight 1,800W Coemar Panoramas running a very slow color change program; the various floors of the tower were lit from inside using 24 blinders laid on the floor. Apart from the use of modern technology, we also used 'period lighting'--hundreds of torches, round the tower's merlons and up its stairs. A concert was staged in front of the tower at midnight."

Another component of Florentine festivities was the "Michelangelo ramps," a sloping road leading up from the tower on the banks of the river to Piazzale Michelangelo, along which there is a series of fountains. The celebrations, which began below the St. Nicholas Tower, included an hour-long parade that led up the ramps to the piazza, stopping at each fountain, where the Tetras group astounded with its acrobatic pyrotechnic shows. " The fountains were in a state of complete abandon," says Morgia. "We drew this situation to the attention of the town council and other appropriate authorities. They had them cleaned and got them working again, then we relit them, partly with the PARs and discharge equipment mounted on the tower, and partly with material supplied by S.O.L.E., which will remain as fixed installations all year round." This summer, Morgia may be staging son et lumiere shows, where at midnight the fountains will be illuminated by either lighting or projections, accompanied by live or recorded music.

In Piazzale Michelangelo, there was a 18x16m (60'x50') roofed stage, on which the Volgograd Philharmonic Orchestra accompanied a ballet show and other entertainment; Piazza della Repubblica hosted the Internet control trucks and megascreens around the square, which received images from new year's celebrations all over the world that were projected and downloaded onto a website.

Celebrations welcoming the Jubilee with the Morgia touch were also held in the picturesque Umbria town of Perugia, perhaps best known for its jazz festivals and exquisite chocolate. London wasn't the only city with a new ferris wheel for the millennium--and Perugia's worked first time. "In Perugia there were seven stages, representing the various types of music of the millennium [from classical to ballroom, and reggae to rock and roll], and each square also had a themed set," Morgia says. "We lit the stages and the facades of the buildings round the square, and in the main square two light guns were used to project a photographic history of the town onto the surrounding buildings. The fountain in this square was inaugurated last year, after being hidden from view for many years by a canopy that protected a renovation team. I was called in to light the monument for the event and the lighting was kept as a fixed installation; now every March I'll be organizing a 'fountain fete.' "

The LD also lit events staged in a few other Italian cities. One close to his heart was a celebration at San Remo in his native Liguria, held on the roof of the Artison Theatre.

For him, the Florence fest best captured the spirit of the millennium. "The St. Nicholas Tower was lit after the fireworks at midnight and remained as a symbol of the year 2000--in my mind as a symbolic combination of the Middle Ages and today's cutting-edge technology."

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