"Only the best for theatre and staff“ at the ‘Nationaltheater Mannheim

22 September 2010,


"Only the best for theatre and staff"

Head of the lighting department, Nicole Berry, provides the following interview with PMA, a German-based lighting industry magazine.

The 'Nationaltheater Mannheim' is the biggest multi-purpose performing arts centre in the world and, at the same time is the oldest municipal theatre in Germany. Even though today's venue - consisting of a 1200-seat opera and a 634-seats theatre - due to its location at the 'Goetheplatz' and its modern design after Gerhard Weber, doesn't remind a lot of the old 'Nationaltheater' which was destroyed in World War II, the dignified traditions of Schiller and Wagner are still carried on: after the premiere of "Die Räuber", on the 13.01.1782 at the 'Nationaltheater' in Mannheim, the inauguration of the theatre's new construction, exactly 175 years later (13.01.1957), included a production of one of Schiller's masterpieces. Also Richard Wagner's "Parsifal" had a production in the first season with a premiere. Since it is still in their repertoire, it is one of the oldest productions of German operas. At the same time, the comprehensive repertoire is very impressive: The opera division by itself has 60 operas of which they show 45 each season. A total number of 603 co-workers might sound a lot, but the truth is for the dimension of this theatre the personnel are actually small.

Selecon is the desired product

The lighting department is solely led by Nicole Berry, who assigns up to 31 people as needed to the playhouse, opera house and studio. Nicole is a real 'veteran' of the theatre starting her exceptional career with an apprenticeship as an electrician. She came to the 'Nationaltheater' in 1992, where she continued her studies and became the first female master electrician. Until 2009, Nicole Berry's task was looking over the playhouse's lighting department; afterwards she changed to her present role as head of the lighting department.

The approach with the 'Nationaltheater' was made by the lighting manufacturer Selecon, who had a major impact on the innovative story of the lighting industry. Nicole Berry puts her opinion about the manufacturer from New Zealand in a nutshell:"I want to clarify one thing as a headline: For me, Selecon is absolutely first choice. I met Rainer Weggen, sales manager at Philips Selecon, for the first time at a demonstration from our local dealer Wolfram Dosch." At that time, the head of the lighting department was looking for Fresnel luminaires, and especially impressed with the company's philosophy, and the service of Selecon, which she describes as a 'carefree-package-deal'.

In the end, the decision was to get the Rama Fresnel 1kW, but Nicole Berry wasn't entirely satisfied at the time. Selecon made it possible for her to field test the lamps – and not long after this it was clear to her that not only the interpersonal level match, but also Selecon's devices were the right choice.

And so finally, 20 Ramas HP 175 Fresnel 1,2kW luminaries were ordered. They were evenly arranged with 10 on each side of the gallery in the studio.

In the meantime eight Selecon Pacific 12°-28° 80V/1200W ellipsoidals were bought in addition, and delivered to the storage facility of the 'Nationaltheater'. Although the whole team is looking forward to the new luminaries, they won't be installed until the season's break. Besides, the lighting department in Mannheim had a chance to test Selecon's Followspots during this year's "Mozart-summer". The crucial fact, said Berry, is that the previous purchases were just the beginning. The current lighting equipment is working reliably, but in the long run a renewal will be necessary. Hence, her new concept will be implemented gradually. This for example also includes the replacement of the existing Fresnels and Profilers with new ones – her preference for the future will be Selecon. Starting the following season, the new Selecon Pacific 12°-28° 80V/1200W Zoomspots will be the first to be installed at the theatre; they will be mounted in four groups on the left and right side of the panels in the auditorium.

Upon request of specifics about Selecon's lighting equipment, Nicole Berry especially emphasizes the possibility of a quick replacement: "My concern is to find the best solution possible for the 'Nationaltheater'. That means I'm looking for work simplification." That's exactly what Selecon's luminaries provide; the flexibility of their modular design allows a quick change from halogen to MSR-lamps.

Overall, Nicole Berry repeatedly underlines that the Selecon solutions are the first choice for the 'Nationaltheater'. "The Ramas are small, compact, and easy to operate, and have a good light output. Altogether we achieve almost an energy saving of 50 percent. On the one hand, that results from the change of 2000 to 1200 watt, on the other hand the Pacific luminaries stay much cooler compared to many other lamps, so we are able to reduce our operational costs of the air conditioning," reports Berry.

Beyond, another advantage for the technicians is the design of the frame, made out of extruded aluminum and heat resistant plastic. Due to Selecon's 'cool-touch-technology', the plastic on the front and back stays cool, so the luminaries are easy to operate without getting burned. Furthermore, the cold mirror technology reduces about 80 percent of the heat in the beam.

Text and photos provided by: Andrea Frohleiks