Merengue and salsa set the tempo for Olga Tanon's two sold-out Magic of Rhythm (La Magia del Ritmo) concerts at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan, Puerto Rico, last Valentine's Day weekend. Over 25,000 fans saw these first two shows, while another 6,000 people filled three additional standing-room-only performances, added rather unexpectedly for the following weekend in a 2,000-seat theatre at the Centro de Bellas Artes. Designer Fernando Luis Aguilu had just three days to adjust the sets and lighting for the new venue.
The success of these concerts reflects Tanon's popularity as Puerto Rico's top female vocalist. "She started with tropical music, then switched to Tex-Mex," says Aguilu, president of Flashlights, a lighting company in San Juan. Tanon, who by the way is married to baseball player Juan Gonzalez of the Texas Rangers, sings in both Spanish and English and tops the charts in many Spanish-speaking countries. "Olga is now more pop-oriented, more like Gloria Estefan, and is looking to cross over into an international market," Aguilu points out.
The title of the show was derived from its content, in which magic plays an important role. "They wanted to have a sense of illusion in the show, and brought in Papote Varet, a Puerto Rican magician who works in Las Vegas, as the artistic director," says Aguilu, who designed the sets in keeping with the magic theme. While Tanon does not actually do any tricks herself, she is involved in a few during the show. "She disappears, then reappears in a Plexiglas cylinder at one point, and at another moment, she appears suddenly in the audience," Aguilu explains. "Later, she sings to a man in the audience and he levitates in his seat." Tanon also partnered with male vocalist Luis Fonsi on several of her songs.
Designing for the Clemente Arena's large stage, which measures 80' wide and 45' deep, Aguilu used a painted backdrop with images inspired by Marc Chagall, with a round video screen as a medallion in the center for closeups of Tanon. To change the look of the sets, large white drapes were used to cover the backdrop during certain songs. "The white was painted with light for color," says Aguilu, who used the curtains as well as the lighting to add movement to the stage. Another curtain came in midway upstage and in front of the band, leaving just enough room for Tanon to make her entrance. "The main entrance to the set is upstage center, under the video screen," Aguilu says. The sets were built by Jesus Santiago.
Black heavy-duty pre-rigged truss from both Tomcat and Thomas was used to span the large stage in an 85' x 38' configuration, with the addition of lighter-weight truss from Applied Electronics, all hung with 16 one-ton CM Lodestar chain motors. "The Roberto Clemente Arena is 30 years old, so there is no built-in rigging structure. You have to build your own grid for the lighting. I like to use several levels of truss with moving lights from the floor all the way to the top to cover such a large area," says Aguilu, who placed a row of automated luminaires on a platform 10' from the floor. "It adds another angle as the lights sweep from side to side with colors and patterns right at audience level."
The automated fixtures follow the music, with the light dancing to the same Latin rhythms as the songs. "The look jumps around and we make the lights move as fast as they can. We attack very aggressively yet as smoothly as possible. The changes in rhythm give us the opportunity for different looks for each song," says Aguilu, who used the rotating patterns and gobos built into the 18 High End Cyberlights(R) and 12 Clay Paky Golden Scan HPEs in the rig, to add to the motion. These swept out over the audience to make them feel part of the show. "Movement is very important in this kind of show," he notes. "Tropical music is for dancing. The people stand up and move and there is a lot of communication with the audience."
In addition to the Golden Scans and Cyberlights, the rig contained 20 each of Studio Colors(R) and Intellabeam 700HXs; over 100 PAR-64s, 68 ETC Source Four PARs, 10 Thomas spot banks, and four Altman HMI followspots provided the conventional lighting, with control via two High End Status Cue ML consoles and an ETC Express 125. Atmospheric effects came from a High End F100(TM) fogger, as well as a Le Maitre Star Haze and G300 fogger and the use of dry ice.
When asked about his choice of automated luminaires, Aguilu responds, "I love them all," but singles out the Clay Paky units for their smooth movement and powerful HMI 1,200W lamp. "For more intimate moments, the Cyberlight is really good and I like the Studio Colors to add movement to the wash colors and sweep from the stage to the audience," he explains. The programmers/board operators were Leonardo Aguilu (Fernando's son) and Ronald Borras, who programmed the show for about a week before five days of load-in and two full technical rehearsals at the coliseum.
"We work out the show song by song based on a script, but it doesn't matter if they vary the order," says Aguilu. One of the Roberto Clemente concerts was also filmed for a television special, which aired in Puerto Rico on February 28. "I designed the lighting with television in mind," Aguilu adds. "Some of the back lighting was too saturated for the cameras, so it was toned down for filming."
The palette for the concert was made up of very strong colors, in keeping with the tropical music. "In the Caribbean, the blues and greens are very deep," explains Aguilu, who also used deep reds and ambers as well as a variety of blues. His range of hues went from indigo (Rosco 59) to magenta (Lee 113) and medium red (Rosco 27). "The greens were true green, not toward yellow," he says. "A combination of shades gives me good blends and a good overall look with variation in tonality."
After the first two concerts at the Clemente coliseum, the decision was made to add three extra shows at the Centro de Belles Artes, San Juan's modern performing arts center. "We had to redesign, and the rig had to made smaller for this venue," says Aguilu, who points out the stage was 20' smaller--only 56' wide. "The sets fit, but we had too many lights. We reduced the number of moving lights, but kept the same concept and the same show. There was not too much reprogramming required, more a changing of some parameters and some positions."
For Aguilu, the concert was a success due to the collaborative effort of all involved. "We all worked for the artist," he says. "She is a very powerful woman and demands a lot of herself and of everyone around her."
OLGA TANON: LA MAGIA DEL RITMO, February 12-21, 1999
Coliseo Roberto Clemente and Centro de Bellas Artes
Promotores Latinos, producer
Sets and lighting design: Fernando Luis Aguilu
Lighting equipment: Flashlights
Moving lights programmers/board operators: Leonardo Aguilu, Ronald Borras
Set construction: Jesus Santiago
Rigging and trussing: Flashlights
Pyro effects: Dario Nazario, O Magic
Sound: Domingo Dominquez, Comco Sound
(2) High End Systems100 Status Cue(R) ML consoles
(1) ETC101 Express 125 console
(12) Clay Paky102 Golden Scan HPEs
(18) High End Systems Cyberlights
(20) High End Systems Studio Colors
(20) High End Systems Intellabeam 700HXs
(124) PAR-64 1,000W fixtures
(68) ETC Source Four PARs
(10) Thomas Spot Banks
(4) Altman HMI followspots
85' x 38' Tomcat heavy-duty pre-rigged truss, double-hung truss and corner blocks
Thomas pre-rigged double-hung truss
Applied Electronics 12" x 12" truss
(16) CM Lodestar chain motors