Wexford Opera Creates High Drama Using Philips Selecon PL3s

Wexford, Ireland - For any lighting designer, setting the scene for three very distinct operas, as part of a busy repertory season, invariably presents its own unique set of challenges.

Such was the creative task for Declan Randall, lighting designer for Wexford Opera's 60th Anniversary season: "My rig has to be both flexible and reliable," he explains. "I'm keen to use new technology where appropriate and this year I decided to incorporate LED luminaires into my design."

Declan elected to use Philips Selecon PL3 LED Luminaires: "For me the application of colour and hue is one of my most critical design tools," he says. "Lighting three distinctly different operas: French opera La Cour De Celimene, Polish opera Maria (photos below) and Italian opera Gianni Di Parigi, presented me with a variety of design challenges. The PL3s provided my 'get out of jail free' card' on a number of occasions."

"Originally I'd only planned to use the PL3s for one of the operas – Maria," he continues. "Set during the grimy, grey, bleak realism of the 1980s Polish revolution, the director wanted to cast ominous shadows of the players on stage to emphasize the more abstract, surreal moments in the story. Not only did the PL3s give us the option to introduce colour change into those shadows, because each unit has three light sources they allowed me to achieve multiple shadows with a single luminaire! Ordinarily the same effect would have required three times the number of fixtures. This enabled me to achieve the dramatic effect I wanted while ensuring there was less clutter in the rig."

Declan used four units rigged on the pit rail, primarily for up-lighting, he discusses: "The PL3s are as effective when using strong saturated colours as they are when more subtle tints are required. At one point I used them to simulate a police siren flashing light effect. They provided a combination of fluctuating colour effect (red/blue) and also varying intensity to create the random flashing of the police lights – it worked brilliantly!"

So impressed was Declan that he made use of the PL3s in all three operas. "La Cour De Celimene featured a rather quirky design. The show took place on a double-raked stage (tilted and lifted), which had wrap-around walls and a ceiling - not the easiest thing to light! I used the PL3s to create the atmosphere of a candle-lit space, the lower angle helping to cast evocative shadows onto the walls. I also focused two of the four pit units onto the ceiling of the set and used the colour temperature shift to subtly alter the colour of the space and thereby change the mood (albeit very slightly) in the room. The other two units were focused to light up faces, while a fifth unit was mounted in the set and used to light the ceiling at times when it was not possible to use the pit rail units."

The third opera, Gianni Di Parigi, was naturalistically staged, with a realistic set and lighting that tracked the time of day from sunrise through to sunset, into the night to sunrise on the second day. "I didn't intend to use the PL3s here at all, but again, found that they were really useful. I used them as fill lights for the scenery and to help to support the 'time of day' story we went for in the show lighting. I used one luminaire to simulate a camera flash as a prop camera took photos on stage. The bright white light was intense and responded quickly enough to be hugely convincing."

Declan concludes: "I was really impressed with the PL3 output. I'd only ever seen them in a trade-show environment and that never gives a true sense of what can be achieved. Output and the colour mixing range are excellent, as is the zoom range. The time we spent colour matching to the existing filter palette in the rig was well worth the investment. Another big advantage is the luminaire's range of colour vs. output. With conventional fittings colour is a subtractive process, with LED it's additive. It's fantastic to have lights in the rig that don't sacrifice output when we use saturated colour tones!"

Photos supplied courtesy of Wexford Opera