The creations of Cirque du Soleil® have been holding audiences spellbound since the company’s inception in 1984. With their latest presentation, Delirium™, the Canadian entertainment troupe has surpassed even its own lofty standards.

Created and directed by Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon, Delirium is an inspired mélange of theatre, music, dance, and multimedia that pushes beyond the traditional limits of arena performance in its integration of sound and visuals. The production is performed on a unique stage configuration open to both front and back. The 136-foot wide, 80-foot high stage bisects the arena, dividing the audience into two halves, one on either side.

The sound system created by audio designer Yves Savoie was conceived as dual, opposing setups to cover both sides of the stage, using a total of 96 of Meyer Sound’s MICA™ compact high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers. Each side sports three towers of 16 MICA cabinets, along with two columns of five 700-HP ultrahigh-power subwoofers. Six M1D ultracompact curvilinear array loudspeakers per side act as frontfill for the first few rows of floor seating, with a handful of CQ-1 wide coverage main loudspeakers added to fill in some front corners.

On stage, six UPA-1P compact wide coverage loudspeakers per side act as monitors for the dancers, while 16 M3D-Sub directional subwoofers underneath the stage reinforce the performance’s substantial rhythmic content, a benefit for the dancers as well as for the audience.

The production plans to integrate Meyer Sound’s Galileo loudspeaker management system into the existing network in December, in order to utilize Galileo’s air absorption compensation filtering and array compensation presets.

FOH engineer Renate Petruzziello mixes the show on a Yamaha PM1D digital console, handling over 200 inputs on 80 channels.

“In some of the smaller venues, we will use only 12 or 14 MICAs (per tower),” explains Andre Jr. Pichette, Delirium’s audio systems designer. “That’s the genius of this setup—that we can change it so easily to adapt to the hall. Also, the rigging allows us to tip each cabinet as much as we need to reach the very uppermost seats. Most line arrays can’t do that.

“Even more important for us is the MICA’s self-powered design,” Pichette adds. “Delirium is such a massive production, and we have very limited space backstage. With a traditional speaker setup, we would need about eight more amp racks back here, which would be impossible. And with the MICA, it’s just one cable carrying signal, RMS™ (Meyer Sound’s remote monitoring system), everything.”

Pichette also cites the impact of loudspeaker cable lengths in a traditionally powered system. “With speaker cable, the signal begins to really deteriorate after 100 feet. We have 250 feet of cable from backstage to the center columns, so our sound quality would definitely suffer with a passive system.”

“Cirque shows are generally pretty complex productions, but in most cases it’s a semi-permanent installation in a single venue,” Petruzziello observes. “The challenge with Delirium™ is that we deal with two or three different arenas every week – one might sound pretty good, another might not. It’s always a challenge. The Meyer gear has made our lives so much easier. I don’t know what other system we could use that would have all its versatility. Particularly the MICAs, using 16 on each cluster, gives us a lot of flexibility. It really simplifies things when you have a system that’s so easily adaptable.”

As visually compelling and brilliant as the dual-sided stage design may be, its acoustical challenges are even trickier than traditional theatre-in-the-round. Creating sound for two opposing stages in an arena setting is a situation with great potential for problems, so Pichette gets an early start assessing each new room with MAPP Online Pro™ acoustical prediction software.

“With each new venue, I come in the morning, around 7:00 or so. I take my measurements and design the system in AutoCAD, then check with MAPP Online, print out a sheet, and begin to install it. It’s so simple. By 8:45 I’m usually ‘SIMing’ (tuning the system with a SIM® 3 audio analyzer), then we wait for the stage setup, and usually we’re finished setting up the audio by around 1:00 PM.”

Another challenge in doing sound for dual stages is the reality of only hearing one half of the system. “Andre takes care of all the speaker control from over by the FOH position, and he really relies on SIM 3 and RMS™ (Meyer Sound’s remote monitoring system) to monitor the system,” Lachance observes. “It’s really critical to have good quality high-end monitoring like that, particularly in a unique setup like this one. If you’re just listening to what you can hear from your own vantage point, you’re on a path to destruction. Those people on the other side of the arena are not going to tell you if your PA is out. You have to be confident that it’s sounding good everywhere, even in the places you can’t hear.”

“Close to the stage there’s the additional challenge of balancing the sound from the stage with the sound from the speakers,” Pichette explains. “There’s a lot of percussion going on, and in many of the pieces the drums and percussion move across the stage, creating a lot of sound in the house. So it becomes a matter of bringing things in and out of the PA at the right times, just for those zones. The combination of MICA and SIM 3 is great for that.”

“This is not exactly your standard setup,” observes Petruzziello in a classic understatement, “but with the MICA, it’s possible to make it work. Andre is a big part of it too. He’s got a lot of experience using Meyer gear, and comes up with ideas I’d never have thought of. He’s also something of a perfectionist, which is really inspiring to work with, and great to be able to depend on.”

For full coverage of Delirium, see the March 2006 issue of Live Design.