When the Three Tenors played South Africa this past spring the setting could not have been more striking. Up on the hill overlooking the stage stands the magnificent Union Building, an Italianate edifice of rosy sandstone, once home to the Government Executive. Rolling down before it, semi-formal, tree-lined gardens descend some 132' (40m) to the valley floor. A crowd of almost 40,000 would be able to revel in this marvelous pastoral setting. Except, that is, for an enormous equestrian statue of some forgotten hero that stands resolutely atop a mighty plinth, its fat bottom facing uphill, exactly where the stage should be.
Sarah Roberts, one of South Africa's leading theatre set designers, was charged with concealing this prodigious posterior and did so with great aplomb. Reflecting the glory of the building above, Roberts mimicked its Doric columns and bas-relief gables to dress the stage. Built by Just Sets of Johannesburg, the series of massive scenic flats and painted scrims covered a scaffolding structure 330' (110m) wide, and at points almost 106' (32m) tall. The stage--comprising a Stageco roof system built on Lehrer scaffold--was supplied by Gearhouse SA.
In evidence of this company's muscular entry into the South African market three years ago, Gearhouse also provided all lighting, video projection, power, and most of the audio. Likewise, broadcast and video recording facilities were all contracted to domestic providers, TV consultants Framework Television calling in Air Time, the South African Broadcasting Corp.'s outside broadcast providers. Framework's executive producer, Persis Tozer, underlined the significance of the production. "We've done the Three Tenors before. Normally everything is shipped in for them. Here, with the exception of the Meyer system (from Sound Hire in the UK) the whole thing is sourced locally. As a farewell concert to Nelson Mandela, that's a tremendous achievement for this nation."
Hugh Turner, a freelance lighting designer who cut his teeth at Gearhouse, was LD for stage, scenic, and TV lighting. Using more than 500 PAR cans and 60 5kW fresnels to provide the required light levels on stage, he also employed modern technology using an armory of High End Systems Studio Colors(R) and A.C. Lighting Chroma-Q PAR color changers to light the set.
With PSL SA (yet another part of Gearhouse) providing four screens fed by eight Barco 9200 projectors, the entire audience was treated to a feast of sound and visual spectacle.