Italy’s Rosario Fiorello held a series of unique events in the Spring, a first for Italian live and TV entertainment. Three nights a week through June, he hosted a show in a 2,500-seat marquee in Rome’s Piazzale Clodio, recorded and edited down to a 30-minute package and broadcast primetime by Sky Italia the following evenings.

Produced by Live Tour, Fiorello Show is an up-tempo combination of Fiorello’s talents as a singer, comedian, and impersonator, alternating solo sketches with interaction with the show’s guests and members of the audience. Every night produced a truly one-off event, involving a great deal of improvisation.

The technical production team faced a task that was anything but easy, ensuring a live audience perfect audio and eye-catching visuals but also providing ideal conditions for the Euroscena OB team covering the show for the satellite channel package.

Alessandro Bellomo was in charge of the three-strong technical/graphics team from Immagini Elettroniche Srl, the show’s video contractor. “Our large Barco MiTrix LED screen on stage had a total of 720 tiles and was divided into two motorized sections, each of which could be split into three strips, thanks to a pair of special ‘arms,’” he says. The Euroscena OB van sent a feed to the team, who added effects prepared for the scenes in question, controlled by Catalyst operator Marco De Nardi.

Video director Cristina Redini adds, “Apart from descriptive images, such as newspaper clippings, appropriately adapted for screening, graphics were created ad hoc by our team in the studio at the venue. For example, we took some of the key elements of the set design, such as the LED strips on the stage floor, and created exaggerated 3D versions, so spectators had the impression that the stage floor disappeared into infinity. This was the first Italian show using MiTrix’s transparency so extensively, as it’s not easy to balance projected images and the lighting behind the screen.” They managed, she says, thanks to collaboration with the lighting department, led by DP Marcello Jazzetti’s team.

Jazzetti notes that the most interesting aspect was actually invisible to spectators. “Martin TW1 tungsten wash lights made their presence felt at the photography level, and I used them because their lamps are a lot better than HMI for TV applications. They’re excellent instruments with soft color quality—perfect for white light from out front on the faces.”

Audio and lighting contractor Agorà of L’Aquila bought almost a hundred SGM Victory 250s for the show. “A change from the present-day glut of moving head units, they were on all the set’s eight vertical truss columns and a large truss curve on one side of the set, giving some punchy backlighting,” says Jazzetti, who also used Clay Paky Alpha Beam 300s to stand out from the washes and LED strips. The walls behind the screens had ETC Source Four PARs and Robe ColorSpot 575AT units.

For control, Catalyst specialist De Nardi notes there were two networked MA Lighting grandMA consoles. “I controlled the [SAMSC Designs] Catalyst media server and part of the lighting, whereas Giancarlo Toscani used the other console to control the effects, and Marcello controlled the white television lighting,” De Nardi says. “On a show with so much improvisation, we operated a great deal manually.”

Scenographer Emanuela Trixie Zitkowsky, whose credits include all nine editions of the Italian version of the Big Brother reality show and numerous other primetime events, has also worked considerably in Spain and finds time to lecture in scenography in key art and design institutes.

Regarding Fiorello’s impressive 144' wide by 66' deep (44m x 20m) set, Zitkowsky says, “The original aspect was the wide use of trussing as a key element to give the idea of a live tour-style event, rather than a TV show, but it also featured more than a nod to variety shows, with a glossy black center section of the stage. The band emerged through the transparent MiTrix screen on a motorized platform, which retracted when they finished playing, and this transparency theme was continued by a large string curtain on stage, more sections of which were applied to a truss frame to form a huge chandelier, illuminated with Evolight Colors LED bars. The most satisfying result was managing to stage a one-man show in which the host wasn’t floating about, lost on a huge set. This was obviously due to Fiorello’s great stage presence, but the design also played a key role.”

Agorà also fielded the audio setup, designed by veteran Daniele Tramontani. Fiorello’s long-standing FOH engineer Hugo Tempesta enthused regarding his first use of the DiGiCo SD7 he helmed at the show. “It was my first outing with the SD7, and I must say it’s a world unto itself,” he says. “Channel control is really intuitive, and it also sounds good, as I found at preproduction work in Rome’s Forum Village studio, where the staff, accustomed to working with top-grade sound, was astonished with the quality. It has a fantastic bottom end—really full-bodied. There’s multiband dynamics everywhere. I hate traditional compressors, as it’s senseless to compress everything. I prefer multiband facilities, to eliminate everything except what’s necessary. This and the dynamic EQ are the two features I appreciated most on the show, which had a lot of speech, as these features enabled very precise control of the voice.”
With a ten-piece band, a bandleader/pianist, guests, and spare mics, Tempesta had no less than 156 input channels, and many were doubled up, since the live and broadcast mixes—he sent a L/R mix-down to the OB van—required different settings.

Monitor engineer Paolo Belli also had his hands full. “All my DiGiCo D5 Live console’s 120 channels were occupied!” he says. Belli used an Aviom system for distribution to the musicians’ headphones, but the artist himself had an impressive monitor setup: a grille concealed six recessed Clair Brothers 12AM, four K-Array Kobra KK 200 ultra-slim arrays above them (two more were mounted on truss columns), and two L-Acoustics dV-SUBs, plus six L-Acoustics Kudos flown on either side of the set.

Tramontani’s design was based on two Meyer Sound Galileos and a BSS Soundweb that routed the AES/EBU feed from the console to the speaker clusters. Working from a main stage-side L/R system for music with 8+8 L-Acoustics V-DOSC hangs and eight floor-stacked SB28 subs per side with a cardioid setup (reinforcing just the music), plus a center cluster of six dV-DOSC for music and vocals, the system had no less than 11 delayed hangs. A combination of V-DOSC, KIVA, and Meyer Sound MICA systems were employed for vocals and vocals plus music. Each hang covered a limited area of the audience and could be separately controlled during Fiorello’s frequent forays into the room.

Mike Clark, ex-sound engineer, road manager, radio personality, and club DJ, is a UK-born journalist residing in Italy and specializing in entertainment-related technology. He has contributed to LD under its four names for 15 years, and he also works as a technical translator for audio and lighting manufacturers.