Brundibar sounds like a kid's show. After all, the opera is about two children, in search of milk for their sick mother, who end up besting the neighborhood bully. However, with a libretto by Tony Kushner and a composition by Hans Krasa, who perished in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where the production was often performed, you know there must be much more at stake. This one-act opera was recently reincarnated for English-speaking audiences and paired with another one-act Czech opera of similar vintage, Bohuslav Martinu's Comedy on the Bridge. Libretti for both operas were adapted by Kushner, and production design was handled by Maurice Sendak with set designer Kris Stone, lighting design by Don Holder, costumes by Robin I. Shane, and sound by Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen. Directed by Tony Taccone, the production debuted at Berkeley Repertory's Roda Theatre and has been touring the US.
Like the production itself, the sound design is more than what it seems. To handle such challenges, the show is traveling with a sound system sponsored by John and Helen Meyer containing the company's self-powered loudspeakers and an LCS Audio Matrix3™ audio show control system.
In addition to 18 orchestra mics used for the 13-piece band, RF mics were used on Brundibar's 10 principal actors and 20 of the 30-strong children's chorus. “The problem you confront when two actors wearing microphones face each other to sing is comb filtering,” Bodeen says. “So I decided on an A/B vocal system, which would allow me to assign each child in the chorus to one of two matrixes. This made for a complicated setup, but it helped reduce or eliminate the comb filtering effect.”
The A and B matrixes were set up on the 40-in by 32-out Matrix3 system, which was fed by the outputs of two Yamaha DM2000 mixing consoles. One console was dedicated to the wireless mics, while the other primarily handled the orchestra and sound effects.
A total of 16 Meyer Sound CQ-1 wide coverage main loudspeakers were flown for the mains, with the A and B systems each using two cabinets on the left, two on the right, and four in the center cluster.
Meyer Sound's MAPP Online Pro™ acoustical prediction program was used to determine the hanging height, pitch, and amplitude of each loudspeaker. “MAPP was particularly helpful at Yale Repertory,” Bodeen says. “The MAPP information proved very accurate. Meyer also provided excellent technical assistance from (technical support manager) John Monitto and (design associate) Brian Long, who helped a lot with rigging and also tuned each facility with the SIM® 3 audio analyzer. And, of course, the sound departments at Berkeley Rep and Yale Repertory both did a fantastic job.”