Now in its 51st year, the annual St. Olav Festival in Norway celebrates the historic battle of Stiklestad in 1030, which marked the country’s transition from paganism to Christianity and established the cult of St. Olav after the slain king. Central to the festival is the St Olav Drama, performed in an outdoor amphitheatre at the Stiklestad National Cultural Center before an audience of 6,000 (more than 20,000 people watch the drama over four performances). This year, the sound was handled by local PA rental company Stiklestad Lyd & Lys (SLL) who used a large quantity of DPA microphones for the performers and musicians.
The St Olav Drama takes place during the last 24 hours before the battle, revealing the transition between paganism and Christianity. It is the largest and oldest open-air play held in the Nordic countries, encompassing elements of theatre, drama, music, dance and storytelling. Providing an overdue improvement to the long-running drama’s sound quality brought many challenges, so main engineer and sound producer Svenn Frøseth started production preparations in early spring.
"The performance area and auditorium is huge, plus there was the challenge of miking a symphony orchestra and large choir, and running 24 radio mike systems at the same time," says Frøseth. "Working with the symphony orchestra was particularly interesting; it was a great challenge to create a good sound image for 6,000 people. But with a lot of high quality microphones from DPA, this was possible. All 26 stringed instruments in the orchestra – violins, violas, cellos and double bass were fitted with a DPA 4061 miniature omnidirectional microphones using DPA’s black rubber miniature mike holders, which the musicians were more than happy to attach to their instruments. For some of the other instruments, including oboes and flutes, we set up a total of five DPA 4011 cardioid mike."
The actors were fitted with DPA 4066 omnidirectional headband mikes, which Frøseth found to be flexible for mounting purposes and tough enough to handle the battle scenes without becoming dislodged.
It wasn’t just the audio professionals who were impressed by the increase in sound quality. A review in local newspaper Trønder Avisa stated: "Music and sound are very important for this play, and this year full justice has been done to the orchestra and choir. After 51 years the sound problem has been solved. You could hear every little sound from the violins everywhere in the amphitheatre. Never before has it sounded so beautiful, and neither have the choir and orchestra been heard at such high levels, all of which strongly contributed to making this the best play ever."
A total of 12 DPA 4061 miniatures were also used in the indoor amphitheatre.