Robe UK helped lighting designer Jan Osborne to realize a dynamic design for a rare performance of Purcell’s Baroque opera Arthur, performed by the Crickhowell Choral Society. The sole performance was staged in the atmospheric St. Edmund’s Church in Crickhowell, South Wales. Arthur was directed and conducted by local music teacher and aficionado Stephen Marshall as part of Crickhowell Choral Society’s renowned biennial May Festival. The show featured a cast of over 100 including a full Baroque orchestra, two choruses, dancers, and a dozen professional soloists.

Osborne, also course coordinator for the Performing Arts Department at nearby Ebbw Vale College and a lecturer on the College’s BTEC Music and performing Diplomas, has lit the last two May Festival operas performed in the church. The 2001 production of Orpheus in the Underworld was done with just 12 old fresnels and some imaginative power-switching and mid-performance re-patching. The LD was determined that this year’s production should move forward in terms of lighting technology and flexibility. She scouted around for a good deal and a willing partner to supply lights for the show’s extremely tight budget. Ian Brown and Nathan Wan of the newly launched Robe UK, direct importer and marketer of Robe Show Lighting products from the Czech Republic, supplied Osborne with six Robe ColorMix 250 wash fixtures for the show.

Since the production was staged with costumes but no set, lighting was vital in helping the complex and compelling narrative unfold. Osborne needed to light the main performance area just downstage of the pulpit, as well as the aisle which saw frequent entrances and numerous dance sequences. The LD needed small, lightweight, high-brightness, low-power lighting fixtures able to run off one 13A ring main. The fixtures also had to blend unobtrusively into the splendid church architecture, some of it dating back to the late 13th century.

Osborne and her crew of three rigged the fixtures on the Saturday evening before the Sunday performance. They had a tight rigging and programming slot, shoehorned in around the venue’s ecclesiastical schedule which included a wedding, a confirmation, and a choral recital. Four ColorMix 250s were positioned down the aisle, on vertical pieces of lightweight trussing strapped to the church arches. Two were stand-mounted upstage of the pulpit and main performance area, in front of the organ on one side and the chorister room the other.

Osborne borrowed Ebbw Vale College’s Avolites Pearl console to program and run the fixtures. The schedule was so tight that she also had to use the only full dress rehearsal the afternoon before the performance for programming. Here the speed, ease, and hands-on functionality of the Pearl came in very handy. By the end of the dress, there were over 100 cues in the board, and the ColorMixes were creating a dramatic and emotional backdrop for Arthur. "I simply could not have achieved lighting this sophisticated and effective with conventional fixtures," says Osborne. "The Color Mixes are quick and easy to programme and rig, and worked without a glitch."

Left to right: Katherine Davis, Jim Pollard, LD Jan Osborne, and Michael Jones

The sold-out audience responded to and greatly appreciated Osborne’s technical and imaginative sculpting of the opera’s multiple scenes and environments with light beams and color. Osborne was even invited to come to stage to take a bow with cast and orchestra. Others involved in the production included Stage Electrics, who supplied the trussing, additional rigging and extraneous cable requirements, and Osborne’s crew, Jim Pollard, Katherine Davis, and Michael Jones.

Photos © Louise Stickland