In the last few years, Brazil has seen an explosion in new theatre construction. According to theatre consultant Robert Davis, "Brazil has a law to stimulate philanthropic support of the arts," which leads to a wide variety of corporate giving. For example, the Alfa Real Foundation is a philanthropic organization that supports any number of activities in the arts and humanities in Brazil, including arts education, museums, archeology, historic preservation, and live performance. Architecture, too--the 1,200-seat Teatro Alfa Real was completed by the foundation last April, with a 200-seat recital hall scheduled to open in the same building later this year.

Teatro Alfa Real is primarily a concert hall; it accommodates a wide range of classical music performances, including touring orchestras, soloists, recitals, and small groups. Opera, both in staged and concert versions, is a staple of the theatre's season. However, the venue also accommodates musical comedy, drama, popular music, ballet, and modern dance as well. Says Davis, who worked on the project with AIC Architects, "It was intended originally for everything but music. But as the directors of the foundation expressed themselves, it became clear that was one of their primary loves. So it's a multipurpose theatre that is well-suited to music."

This is partly due to good luck. Because land in Brazil is extremely expensive, the theatre was built on a very narrow site. "That's something that acousticians look for," says Davis, adding, "The acoustics are fantastic, partly by design, and partly as a result of the narrow site." Peter George was the acoustician on the project.

The theatre's stage features a proscenium opening, which is 13.5m (45') wide and 8.55m (28') high. The stage itself is 23.5m (78') wide and 19.5m (64') deep, with a resilient wood floor, which is strong enough for heavy scenery and springy enough for dance concerts, with a thick, hardwood tongue-and-groove deck. There are fly galleries on either side of the stage, with a loading gallery located beneath the gridiron. The counterweight rigging system includes 65 single-purchase sets, with set spacing of 20cm, batten lengths of 17.3m (57'), and a high trim of 21.4m (71') above the stage floor. Stage rigging and elevators are by Pook, Diemont & Ohl.

The orchestra pit is 77.5 sq. m (860 sq. ft.), and can accommodate up to 52 musicians, depending on production requirements. The pit is partially extended out into the audience and partially recessed under the lip of the stage. It is equipped with a jackscrew lift that can stop the platform at any level. In terms of technical access, there are auditorium catwalks located in near and far box boom positions, with two overhead catwalks for spot lighting, and one overhead catwalk for followspots. The catwalks double as service platforms for other technical equipment, including sound systems. The theatre also features rooms for lighting and sound control, and followspots. Each area is fully equipped, sound-tight, ventilated, and provided with worklights and running lights. Connectivity is provided for internal and external data networks.

The theatre's lighting package relies on equipment from Electronic Theatre Controls. The inventory includes a full complement of ETC Source Four and ETC Source Four PAR units, including accessories such as pipe, hardware, barndoors, high hats, color frames, safety cables, color cutting and storage equipment, lamps, cables, and twofers. There are two ETC Obsession consoles with remote data monitors and handheld remote controls; both track the show and back each other up.

An ethernet hub is provided for running ethernet nodes throughout the theatre. DMX ties and patchings are provided for running several universes of DMX independently from one another. Stage lighting outlet devices, connector strips, drop boxes, and receptacle boxes are distributed throughout the theatre. The package also includes 288 ETC D20AF 20A dimmers, with advanced features and 500ms rise time, running at 120V.

The new Recital Hall will have a stage that is 7m (23') deep by 8.2m (27') wide; it will be a flexible space, to allow for a variety of production styles, including recitals and proscenium drama. It, too, will rely on ETC lighting units, with an Express 48/96 console for control, which can be operated either from the control room or the stage floor. Also included are 96 ETC D20AF 20A dimmers.

Speaking of the decision to go with ETC equipment, Davis says, "It was determined early on that to have a theatre that would attract international companies, we needed international equipment. Through the 1970s Brazil was a very Eurocentric country; now it is US-centric--the malls are filled with stores like The Gap." Interestingly, there is not one power standard for theatres. Teatro Alfa Real is specified for 120V equipment but, Davis says, other, older venues in Sao Paulo still adhere to the 240V standard, with European equipment. The consultant adds, "It makes the facility attractive to visitors when they see equipment they are familiar with."

Overall, the new theatre provides a warm, inviting space for a variety of performances. Says Davis, "The client said, 'I want the artists to have the tools they need.' And I wanted the place to be intense, focused, warm, and for the audience to have a wonderful time." In Teatro Alfa Real, both these wishes have been abundantly fulfilled.