The Canadian Opera Company has been downsized, and they are celebrating.

CAC's new Toronto digs may be 1,200 seats smaller than their previous home in the Hummingbird Centre, but the space is an aesthetic and acoustic upgrade, allowing them to christen the auditorium with an inaugural program designed to show off its flexibility — from the intimacy of Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte, a work CAC hasn't performed in more than 15 years, to the grandeur of the company's first full Ring Cycle (see Designer Sketchbook, p. 96).

CAC's new $180 million (Canadian) home, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, will also be home to The National Ballet of Canada and was designed not only to address the needs of those two companies but also to make them a more integral part of the city of Toronto.

Architect Jack Diamond of Diamond and Schmitt theatre consultant Joshua Dachs of Fisher Dachs Associates, and Robert Essert of acousticians Sound Space Design worked with the Canadian Opera's technical director Julian Sleath to produce Canada's first purpose-built opera house.

The focal point of the Four Seasons Centre, obviously, is the mainstage R. Frasier Elliott Hall, a 2,000-seat proscenium theatre featuring a five-tiered, European horseshoe-shaped auditorium. But the focus of the space went far beyond the performance hall.

Gary McCluskie, managing principal on this project for Diamond Schmitt, said that the team worked very hard to make the theatre lobby, dubbed The City Room, a “social space,” not just accessible, but inviting. They used glass walls on three sides of the lobby and its upper floors to open the space to the city and created an aerial amphitheatre on the third floor atrium, called the Richard Bradshow Amphitheatre, in which CAC has scheduled 90 free lunchtime concerts for up to 150 visitors. The performers are visible from University Avenue, and concert-goers get a unique view of the city as backdrop.

To enhance the lobby's transparent feeling, John Kooymans of structural engineers Holcrow Yolles suggested making the staircase out of glass. McCluskie says, “It's an amazing piece of construction, no question.” The architects had previously worked with glass treads, but the idea evolved into the largest suspended glass staircase ever made, with construction testing by German company Gartner.

“The glass doesn't sit on the ground. It spans from the 2nd to the 3rd, and 3rd to the 4th floors, acting like a beam,” McCluskie explains. It also serves to connect patrons to the all-important bars, found on every level.

The new location connects the opera more intimately to the heart of the city, but the downside of being downtown is a smaller building footprint and a great deal of external noise, in this case a streetcar on one side and a subway running underneath on the other.

Acoustician Robert Essert was responsible for shaping the acoustics inside the hall and decoupling the space from external noise and vibrations. “We isolated the auditorium by resting it on 460 steel plate and rubber pads measuring about 2' square and 8" thick,” Essert says. Wilson Ihrig and Associates provided the bearing pads.

Essert also collaborated on the shape of the auditorium with the architects and theatre consultants. The four tiers of balconies follow a traditional shape, but Essert designed the auditorium walls in a wavy form. “I wanted the walls to spread the sound a little bit. There would have been too much focusing of the sound if we followed the horseshoe shape,” he notes. As many wires and conduits as possible were run through a large room beneath the auditorium, but anything that did have to penetrate the space or rooms next to it was hung on rubber gaskets and sealed with silicon sealant where it passed through walls to prevent vibrations.

The new theatre also uses one of the first major sine wave dimming systems installed in North America from Strand Lighting, further decreasing buzz from lighting components and, because the load is spread more evenly, saving the theatre more than a quarter of a million Canadian dollars in transformer costs. Toronto has an aging power grid that is nearly maxed out and traditional dimmers have a lot of harmonic content that would have required massive electrical improvements to be made. The Four Seasons Centre uses over 1,000 TrueSine dimmers in 16 C21 racks. The dimmer breakdown is 886 2.4kW 57 6kW, and six 12kW dimmers and 48 20A non-dims.

Richard Bradshaw, CAC's general director, wanted the orchestra to have a voluptuous sound but without overshadowing the singers. At its largest, the pit can hold up to 100 players, but lifting up half the pit on lifts to about 5' below the stage the orchestra can achieve what Essert calls the “immediacy and pizzazz” for Mozart, making the space flexible enough for almost any program. The orchestra lifts were from Gala Systems of Quebec, and the main rigging contractor was local Toronto firm Joel Theatrical Rigging, who also used Niscon Inc. control systems for the house curtain, fire curtain, and chain hoists. Stage drapes were provided by Ontario Staging Limited.

To accommodate the company's extended season and varied shows, the backstage area and fly space can now hold up to three sets of scenery, a welcome improvement over their last home. CAC technical director, Julian Sleath, says previously scenic elements would either be stored in parked trucks or under blue tarps outside the building. “We would find the odd vagrant sleeping under them,” says Sleath. To make the most of the new space, rehearsal rooms, and administrative departments are still housed in old buildings.

Sleath worked with Richard Hoyes from Fisher Dachs and regular CAC lighting designers, Steve Ross, Michael Whitfield, and Chris Dennis, to specify lighting fixtures and controls. They have a Strand 550i console, a 510i serving as a tracking backup console, a 520i as a designer's remote, and an Entertainment Technology Marquee ILC moving light console which Sleath calls incredibly intuitive. He says, “I haven't been a lighting board operator for 12 years and even I could use it without training.” Moving lights include six Vari-Lite VL3500Q spot luminaires and six VL3000Q wash luminaires. The auditorium features Selecon 5° to 13° Zoomspot ellipsoidal reflector spotlights in the ceiling coves, ETC 5°, 10°, and 19° ellipsoidal reflector spotlights on the balcony fronts, Selecon Zoomspot Ellipsoidal Reflector Spotlights 12° to 28° on the upper side booms, and 23° to 50° on the lower side booms.

Other fixtures include: 7" and 10" Bambino Fresnels from Strand, 48 ETC Source Four PARs, 48 James Thomas Engineering standard PAR64s, and 24 Selecon Aurora cyclorama lights and Panasonic projection equipment for subtitles.

As well as the technical upgrades, Sleath believes one of the main accomplishments of the new space is the relationship between the audience and the stage. Sleath says, “Jack Diamond and his team have done a fantastic job getting that right, and it's a hard magic to define.” Joshua Dachs of Fisher Dachs adds, “We all wanted the room to have an emotional impact on people.” Dachs describes the process as building the theatre from the inside out, rather than following an abstract architectural vision and fitting other requirements around it. Dachs and his team structured the seating using their own software, dubbed “Extreme Sightlines” to check the sightlines from every vantage point, eventually tempering the curve of the horseshoe-shaped balconies, saddle-like, so that views of the stage would not be too oblique. To preserve the acoustics, the ceiling steps up to its final height, and penetrations for lighting fixtures were negotiated to a minimum.

Dachs says, “The project worked so well because the design collaborators and client pushed for what they wanted, and then, Jack would find a way to make it beautiful.”

RESOURCES:

LIGHTING

Strand Lighting (Canada) Inc.: www.strandlight.com Theatre lighting control system installation

Production Resource Group: www.prg.com supplied lighting equipment from the following manufacturers:

Cast Lighting: www.cast-soft.com

City Theatrical: www.citytheatrical.com

Doughty Engineering: www.doughty-engineering.co.uk

Entertainment Technology: www.etdimming.com

ETC: www.etcconnect.com

Goddard Design Company: www.goddarddesign.com

Horizon Control: www.horizoncontrol.com

James Thomas Engineering: www.jthomaseng.com

Littlite: www.littlite.com

Robert Juliat: www.robertjuliat.fr

Selecon: www.seleconlight.com

Vari-Lite: www.vari-lite.com

Wybron Incorporated: www.wybron.com

SOUND & VIDEO

MacLean Media Systems Inc.: www.maclean.ca supplied equipment from the following manufacturers:

Atlas Sound: www.atlassound.com

Blonder Tongue Laboratories, Inc.: www.blondertongue.com

BSS: www.bss.co.uk

Clear-Com: www.clearcom.com

Crestron Electronics, Inc.: www.crestron.com

Drawmer: www.drawmer.com

Edirol by Roland: www.edirol.com

JBL Professional: www.jblpro.com

Kramer Electronics, Ltd.: www.kramerelectronics.com

Lexicon: www.lexicon.com

Marantz: www.marantz.com

Marshall Electronics, Inc.: www.mars-cam.com

Meyer Sound Laboratories Inc.: www.meyersound.com

Panasonic: www.panasonic.com

QSC Audio Products, Inc.: www.qscaudio.com

Sennheiser Canada Inc.: www.sennheiser.ca

Tannoy Ltd: www.tannoy.com

TOA Canada Corporation: www.toacanada.com

Yamaha: www.yamaha.com/ca/

Stage Rigging Systems Joel Theatrical Rigging Contractors: www.joeltheatrical.com worked with the following companies:

Christie Lites: www.christielites.com

CM Loadstar: www.cmworks.com

Gala Systems: www.galainfo.com/en/

Niscon: www.nisconinc.com

Ontario Staging Limited: www.ontariostaging.com

Toronto Opera House

Lighting Equipment

Lighting Control

16 Strand Lighting C21 TrueSine Dimmer Racks

886 Strand Lighting C21 2.4kW C21 TrueSine Dimmers

57 Strand Lighting C21 6kW C21 TrueSine Dimmers

6 Strand Lighting C21 12kW C21 TrueSine Dimmers

48 Strand Lighting C21 20A C21 TrueSine Dimmers

1 Strand Lighting 550i Console

2 Strand Lighting 520i Designer Remote Console

1 Strand Lighting 510i Backup Console

3 Strand Lighting 300 Processor

1 Entertainment Technology Horizon Marquee ILC Console

3 Cast Lighting Wyg.it 2

1 Hewlett Packard Pocket PDA

Luminaires

60 Selecon 5.5° - 13° Zoomspot Ellipsoidal

54 Selecon 12° - 28° Zoomspot Ellipsoidal

54 Selecon 23° to 50° Zoomspot Ellipsoidal

32 ETC 15°-30° Zoom Ellipsoidal

6 ETC 5° Ellipsoidal

52 ETC 10° Ellipsoidal

32 ETC 19° Ellipsoidal

36 ETC 26° Ellipsoidal

24 ETC 36° Ellipsoidal

15 Strand Bambino 7" Fresnel

9 Strand Bambino 10" Fresnel

48 ETC Source Four PAR

48 James Thomas Engineering PAR64

24 Strand Iris 4 Cyclorama Light

24 Selecon Aurora Cyclorama Light

3 Lycian 1293 Long Throw 3kW Xenon Followspot

3 Robert Juliat Short Throw 2.5kW Followspot 4.5° to 8° HMI

6 Vari Lite VL3500Q Spot Luminaire

6 Vari Lite VL 3000Q Wash Luminaire

Lighting Accessories

48 Wybron CXI 7.5" Color Scrollers

12 Wybron CXI 12" Scrollers (305 mm model)

8 Wybron 24-Way Power Supply

54 ETC Drop-ins Iris Assembly

100 ETC Pattern Holder for ERS

58 City Theatrical Half Top Hat for 5° ERS

36 City Theatrical Half Top Hat for 10° ERS

48 City Theatrical Half Top Hat for 19°-50° ERS

24 City Theatrical Half Top Hat for ETC Source-Four PAR

48 City Theatrical Donut for 19°-50° ERS

12 City Theatrical Donut for 10° ERS

12 City Theatrical Donut for 5° ERS

6 Zetex Border

6 Littlite Production Desk Worklight

10 Lex Products 6 outlet orchestra E-string

Audio and Video Equipment

Loudspeakers

1 Meyer CQ-1, TPL, L6-20 Main Loudspeaker System

1 Meyer CQ-2, TPL, L6-20 Main Loudspeaker System

1 Meyer CQ-2, TPL, L6-20 Main Loudspeaker System

112 Meyer MM-4 Fill/Surround Loudspeaker

1 Meyer PSW-2 TPL, L6-20 Main Loudspeaker System

1 Meyer PSW-2 TPL, L6-20 Main Loudspeaker System

3 Meyer UPA -1P UL Main Loudspeaker System

6 Meyer UPJ-1P Main Loudspeaker System

2 Meyer UPM-1P Main Loudspeaker System

1 Marshall V-R154P Test Monitor

1 Marshall V-R72P-2SDI Test Monitor

8 Bose MA12 FOH Line Array Loudspeakers

2 Tannoy 80013392 8D Studio Monitors

Microphones & Accessories

2 Neumann KM184MTMicrophone

2 Sennheiser EM550G2 Microphone

3 Sennheiser MKH40 Microphone

2 Sennheiser MKH416 Microphone

1 Sennheiser SI1015 Modulator

2 Sennheiser SKM5935G2 Microphone

6 Sennheiser SZI 1029 IR Radiator

2 SURGEX SX1115RL Surge Protection

4 SURGEX SX2120 Surge Protection

1 Marantz CDR-510 CD Recorder

2 Marantz PMD-331 CD Player

1 Marantz PMD-371 CD Player

1 Marantz PMD-351 CD/Cassette Player

1 Marantz PMD-570 Digital Repeater

Paging & Intercoms

6 Clear Com CC-260 Intercom Headset

30 Clear Com CC-95 Intercom Headset

50 Clear Com ES-1 Headset Earsock

4 Clear Com HS-6 Intercom Handset

10 Clear Com KB-211 Intercom Speaker Station

2 Clear Com MS-812-12 Intercom 12-Ch Master Station

4 Clear Com PS-464 Power Supply

1 Clear Com RM-220 Intercom 2-Ch B63 Rack Station

2 Clear Com RM-440 Intercom 4-Ch B63 Rack Station

15 Clear Com RS-601 Intercom 1-Ch Beltpack

5 Clear Com RS-602 Intercom 2-Ch Beltpack

2 Clear Com TW-12B Intercom Isolation Interface

10 Clear Com V-Box Speaker Station Backbox

15 Atlas 164-8A 8" Speaker Baffle

15 Atlas 8CXT60 8" Speaker

162 Atlas FA134T87 4" Speaker

204 Atlas FA138T87 8" Speaker

205 Atlas FA720-8 8" Speaker Grill

162 Atlas FA97-4 4" Speaker Back Box

205 Atlas FA97-8 8" Speaker Back Box

100 Atlas FA-TR4 In ceiling mounting plate

100 Atlas FA-TR8 In ceiling mounting plate

2 Atlas MVXA-2016 Loudspeaker Monitor

15 Atlas Q418 8" Large Format Backbox

4 JBL Control 28 Paging Loudspeaker

6 TOA CS-154 Paging Horns

Sound Control

4 Yamaha AD8HR A/D A/D Converter

1 Yamaha DM2000V2 Main Mixing Console

1 Yamaha M16-C Cobranet Interface

1 Yamaha MB2000 Meter Bridge

2 Yamaha MY16-AE AES Interface

2 Yamaha MY8AE96 AES Interface

1 Yamaha M12/6 Portable Mixing Console

2 Lexicon PCM-91 Digital Reverberator

4 MGE Evolution 1500 UPS

11 Middle Atlantic MRK-4431 Equipment Rack

2 Middle Atlantic MRK-4431AXS Equipment Rack

1 Crestron CP2E Control Processor

1 D-Link DES-1526 Ethernet Switch

2 D-Link DWL-3200 WiFi Access Points

1 Drawmer Mclock Wordclock Generator

1 Echo Audio Fire 12 FireWire Interface

1 Edirol UA-1000 USB Interface

2 Elo 185914 17" Rack Monitor

1 Fostex RM-2 B63 Rack Monitor

1 Hewlett Packard 1160Le 162 Printer

1 Hewlett Packard PC TC1100 Tablet PC

14 QSC CX 168 Amplifier

11 QSC CX 204V Amplifier

7 QSC CX 404 Amplifier

1 Symetrix 581E Audio Distribution Amplifier

1 BSS BLU-32 0×16 Soundweb

1 BSS BLU-32 16×0 Soundweb

1 BSS BLU-32 4×12 Soundweb

3 BSS BLU-32 8×8 Soundweb

2 BSS BLU-80 0×16 Soundweb

1 BSS BLU-80 8×8 Soundweb

Video

1 Blonder FA3M-50-860 CATV Modulator

4 Panasonic 42PHD8 42" Plasma Display

1 Panasonic 65PHD8UK 65" Plasma Display

3 Panasonic AW-E650P Convertible Camera

20 Panasonic CT-20SL15 General TV - 20"

20 Panasonic CT-27SL15 General TV - 27"

10 Panasonic CT-32SL15 General TV - 32"

1 Panasonic DMR-ES10 DVD Recorder

2 Panasonic ETDLE200 Lens 2.5 to 4.0

2 Panasonic ETDLE300 Lens 3.7 to 5.7

2 Panasonic PTD5500U Projector DLP

2 Panasonic TYFB7SD SDI Terminal Board

1 Panasonic WV-CL920A Low Light / Near Infra Red Camera

1 Panasonic WVCL920AP Color Camera - Low Light

16 Panasonic WVCM1020P1 10" Video Monitor

6 Panasonic WVCM1780 19" Video Monitor

1 Sierra Video 10/501019 VDA Frame

16 Sierra Video 10/501019 VDA Cards

6 Canare 242U-DVJS Video Patchbay

1 Kramer PIP-200 Test Generator

1 Kramer SG6005 Test Generator

1 Kramer VS-402XL Test Generator