In its sixth edition, Tones on the Stones is a series of summer events staged in the northernmost province of Italy’s Piedmont region and takes the name from its breathtaking locations in granite quarries. This year’s program included two unusual events, both lit by Nevio Cavina: one quarry hosted the world premiere of the opera/ballet Butterfly Effect, the story of a group of natives who survive the end of the world. The second quarry was the set for La Carne del Marmo (The Flesh of Marble), an oratorio for Michelangelo directed by Alessio Pizzech.
Devised by Brazilian choreographer Ismael Ivo, Butterfly Effect featured the Fedora Award Dance Company, soprano/artistic director Maddalena Calderoni, a unique glass MIDI harp, an Indian bansuri flute, a huge array of percussion, live electronics, and music created by processing data received via Internet from a weather station by pianist/composer Luigi Pizzaleo.
La Carne del Marmo featured actor Alessio Boni and dancers Mattia De Salve and Julio Cesar Quintanilla, in a combination of music, dance, visual arts, and spoken word, showing the intimate poetic expression of creative art as opposed to the frenetic present-day material world.
Cavina, known for lighting shows in unusual locations, including castles and forests, notes that his brief was to transform and add a touch of magic to the sites. “This year, for Butterfly Effect, it was decided to incorporate renewable energy and fixtures with low consumption from the drawing board stage,” he says. Ecoluce, a Rome-based company specializing in clean energy, used mobile photovoltaic systems to supply power to accumulators (single power supply units) installed alongside the set. The company also supplied a sound reinforcement system and LED fixtures ensuring lower power consumption, including 25 Litecraft 60/100cm LED bars, 30 Litecraft full-color LED PARs, and eight Robe Robin LED units. The rig was controlled by a Compulite Spark 3D console and 24 channels of Philips Strand dimming for conventional fixtures.
“I used the LED instruments bearing in mind the aim of using what is most suited to the artistic product, so it wasn’t just an energy-saving demo,” Cavina says. “We showed it’s possible to find a meeting point between traditional aesthetic and communicative forms of lighting and contemporary perspectives. We’d always used conventional power generators in the past, so we could easily have done so this year, but we wanted to make the audience aware of the importance of energy issues.” The difficulties Cavina faced when illuminating the quarries included the actual nature of the locations’ ruggedness and large scale, steep unstable slopes involved when installing and moving equipment, dust when the wind rose, lack of shade during the day, and several days’ rain.
AV contractor for La Carne del Marmo, Giochi di Luce of Cremona, fielded a four-member lighting crew led by Maurizio Agrelli, who adds, “Eight Coemar Panorama MK2 illuminated the natural backdrop of the quarry, 12 ETC Source Four profiles were used for front lighting on the two stone stages, and 24 Spotlight Domino 1kW floodlights and 24 1kW PAR64s strategically positioned among the granite blocks for chiaroscuro effects.” Control was via a Jands 48/96 console, with an MA Lighting grandMA Micro for the Panoramas and as a backup.
Video content for the oratorio was produced by Giacomo Verde, a newcomer to the event. He recorded video footage of the two dancers and of Michelangelo’s works, such as the Rondanini Pietà in Milan, completely different from the better-known work in the Vatican. The projections in the foreground, via a Panasonic PT-D10000EU DLP projector, were on a screen formed by two slabs of marble, whereas the others, with two more identical Panasonic units side by side, projected on the quarry’s granite face. Content was fed from two laptops running ArKaos software, one for each side.
“To ensure the videos sufficient impact in the unusual conditions and on the dark stone wall, I did considerable production work on the statues’ footage to increase the contrast, since I shot them with the standard exhibition lighting,” says Verde. “The dancers, however, were illuminated in a theatre in such a way as to ensure the desired chiaroscuro results from the outset.”
For Butterfly Effect, audio contractor DB Sound also had to reckon with the hostile quarry environment. Owner Andrea Borgnino notes, “I designed the main Nexo system [10 Geo S805, two S830 compact line array modules, and four RS15 subs, powered by three Camco Vortex-6 amplifiers and processed with a Nexo NX 242 digital TDcontroller] at the drawing board stage, and it was adapted by our engineers to suit onsite conditions. The main problem was that, as it was a zero-impact, fully ecological event, the production didn’t want any cables or enclosures to be seen, so we had to ensure all cable runs the least possible visual impact, which meant considerably extending them, and the setup had to be redesigned in order to ensure amp racks were as ‘invisible’ as possible at night.”
Sound engineers Fulvio Marenco and Igor Pedaci manned an Allen & Heath GLD-80 digital FOH console and an Allen & Heath MixWizard3 16-channel mixer for the percussion. Mics included a Sennheiser HSP 2 wireless headset, an AKG C519 for the flute, and a Schertler DYN-H for the harp, plus an assortment of Neumann KSM 105s, AKG 414s, Shure Beta 58s and Beta 57s, AKG D112s, and Electro-Voice N/D468s.
In spite of the unfavorable weather, with wind compelling DB Sound to postpone sound checks several times and a downpour on dress rehearsal day flooding the majority of the “stage” area, submerging some of the audio and lighting equipment, there was all-round satisfaction after the shows. “We all worked well together to stage a very unusual spectacle with considerable difficulties at the technical and logistic level,” Borgnino says.
Cavina adds that, in order to accomplish the productions, “the quarry companies stopped their work to enable the locations to be adapted and all necessary safety precautions taken for audiences. The successful results were, therefore, even more appreciated.”